The Iowa Department of Public Safety is hosting a marrow donor drive this week in hopes of finding a match for two Iowans who need transplants. One is a state trooper; the other is the son of Public Safety employee. Julee Darner, spokeswoman for the University of Iowa Marrow Donor Program, says it’s easy to take the first step to save a life.
“To join the program, people will just be filling out an application form that includes their name, address, contact information and a short health history, and then a swab of their cheek cells,” Darner says. “That swab will be sent to a lab and their D.N.A. typing will be identified from that swab. That information is then put onto a large database.” That database is linked to others around the world with many thousands of potential donors. She says donors with diverse racial or ethnic backgrounds are especially critical as patients in need of a transplant are most likely to match someone who shares their race or ethnicity.
“If you are ever a match for someone, you would have blood testing done to confirm those results first and then you would be asked to come to Iowa City to actually donate your cells,” Darner says. “The cells would then be hand-carried to wherever the patient is located.” While the donor drive is in Des Moines on Wednesday, she says anyone in Iowa can find a place nearby where they can register by calling (800) 944-8220 or by visiting the website: “BeTheMatch.org”.
Darner says, “Your chances of being a match are fairly small and yet you might be one of several people that match, you might be one of hundreds that match that patient but you might also be just the only one in the world that matches that patient.” There is no cost to join the registry but the process does cost the program $52 to D.N.A. type each new person. She says the program relies on cash donations to cover the costs.
For thousands of patients with life-threatening diseases, like leukemia and lymphoma, Darner says a marrow transplant from an unrelated donor is their best or only hope for a cure.