Be The Match, aka the National Marrow Donor Registry, connects people diagnosed with Leukemia, Hodgkin's Lymphoma, Sickle Cell Anemia and over 90 other blood cancers and diseases find a life-saving bone marrow or stem cell match.
I joined the Board of Directors for the Be the Match Foundation late last year, following my own bone marrow transplant in 2016. After two bouts of leukemia, my doctor delivered a quintessential good news/bad news moment when he said that my leukemia was gone, but that my bone marrow was now irreparably damaged. Thanks to Be the Match and my donor, I am alive and cured courtesy of a transplant.
So here are some quick numbers - every 3 minutes someone is diagnosed with a blood cancer or disease that can be cured by a transplant. Only 30% of those diagnosed have a match within their own family. And here is the big one – of the roughly 175 million Americans who are age-eligible, only 16 million people are in the Registry, or less than 10%. Meanwhile people die every day because they can't find a match.
So accept this – you are a match for someone. You may not be called because you have a common HLA type, but you match someone. And if you are already on the Registry, what about your children, friends, co-workers? With minimal impact to you (and zero financial impact), you could be the one who directly saves another person's life. Imagine if you could sign up to pull people out of the water before they drown. Would you hesitate to join?
The challenge is awareness and getting people, especially people of color and those with multi-ethnic backgrounds, to join the Registry early so that they have a long life-cycle as an eligible donor (donors age out at 61). If you are white, you have 77% chance of finding a donor on the Registry, but if you are Hispanic (46%), Asian (41%) or African-American (23%), your odds drop dramatically. We have to democratize the Registry and improve the diversity to give everyone an equal chance.
Given my experience, I connected with the folks at Be The Match a few months post-transplant in 2016 to see what I could do to help. In short order I was volunteering at registry drives and sharing my story. In 2017 I joined the volunteer courier corps and now transport marrow and stem cells across the country from donors to recipients. And late last year I was asked to join the Board of Directors of the Be The Match Foundation. My work with Be The Match is incredibly fulfilling but there is much that we need to do.
If not obvious by now, I’m asking for your support to meet a personal commitment to raise $10,000 for Be The Match in 2019. For those of you who I have lost touch with, I get that a request for money is an awkward way to rekindle our connection. But many people in need of a transplant are not as lucky as I was in finding a match, and some never do. I follow accounts on Twitter and Instagram that make regular pleas for people to join the Registry. Especially heart wrenching are the pages and posts about children. Recently one of the families I follow on Instagram sadly reported that their two year son had died of complications while awaiting a match to cure his aplastic anemia.
So I operate without shame, culling email addresses from Alumni guides and LinkedIn because I have to do all that I can to support Be The Match and the thousands of people they are trying to help.
Most patients needing a blood stem cell transplant turn to the Be The Match Registry to find an unrelated donor. But Be The Match also helps cover uninsured costs for patients and they fund research projects to improve transplant success. With your gift, we'll be able to continue adding new potential matches to the registry, researching breakthroughs in the science of transplant, and improving care and services for post-transplant patients.
I invite you to contribute to my efforts by clicking "Click here to visit my personal page" below and make a contribution of whatever amount you can. Your donation will help patients and their families who rely on Be The Match for a second chance at life. If your company matches gifts (my employer, The Hartford, matches 50 cents on the dollar), let’s discuss how to maximize your donation.