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You could be the cure

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Bone marrow drive adds dozens to national registry

By Stephen Lega

Twenty-eight people added their names to the national bone marrow registry during a drive held Sept. 30 at Lebanon United Methodist Church.
Tatum Robbins, the wife of Marion County High School football coach and teacher Jeff Robbins, organized the event. In June of 2012, Coach Robbins was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer formed by malignant plasma cells. Those cells are found in bone marrow and play an important part in the immune system.
“It’s very humbling … I can’t even put into words the support my family has received from this community,” Tatum Robbins said.
In addition to signing up 28 possible life-saving donors, Tatum Robbins reported that they received more than $1,700 in financial donations for Be the Match, which is run by the National Bone Marrow Program.
Tatum Robbins is hopeful that their efforts will help save someone’s life.
At the drive, potential donors filled out forms and rubbed cotton swabs on the inside of their mouths. The samples collected will be used to try to find matches for individuals in need of a bone marrow donation.
Lori Tucker signed up because she works with Coach Robbins and because her uncle who had leukemia died when he was 43 years old. Her aunt was a donor for her uncle.
Scott Mattingly signed up because his father had multiple myeloma.
“Everybody probably knows someone who could be affected by this,” he said.
Dannie Moore of Be the Match said 12,000 patients are seeking a donor each year.
“Every four minutes someone is diagnosed with a blood cancer,” she said.
A majority of patients, 70 percent, do not have a match in their family, which is one reason the national donor registry was created, according to Moore. Bone marrow is used to help in the treatment of blood cancers, blood diseases and rare immune deficiencies, according to Moore.
“Your gender and your blood type doesn’t matter. Your DNA make-up is how patients are connected to donors,” she said.
In fact, she said the recipient’s blood type will sometimes change to the donor’s blood type after a donation.
Bone marrow donors are selected by HLA matching. HLA stands for human leukocyte antigen, which is a protein found on most cells in the body, according to bethematch.org. Doctors try to match donors and recipients by comparing 8-10 different HLA markers.
Be the Match prefers that donors be between the ages of 18 and 44, although their names will remain on the registry until they turn 61. Donors can sign up between the ages of 45-60, but those donors are asked to make a $100 payment to cover the costs of adding them to the registry.
While blood type does not matter, race and ethnic ancestry can be important since donors and recipients are most likely to match if they are of the same race or ethnicity. According to bethematch.com, they have a special need for black or African-American Native American, Asian, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, Hispanic and mixed race donors.
In addition to donating bone marrow, people can donate umbilical cord blood. This blood is not taken from the baby. It is removed from the umbilical cord after a baby is born. There is no cost to donate cord blood to a public blood bank.
Moore serves Ohio and Kentucky for Be the Match, and she said she knows of a child from Cincinnati who received cord blood treatments when the child was 2 years old. Today, that child is 4 years old and cancer free.

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To learn more
If you weren’t able to make it to last week’s bone marrow donor drive, you can still sign up for the National Bone Marrow Program by visiting bethematch.org.
On that website, you can find information on bone marrow and cord blood donation guidelines, and request information to join the registry.