Erica (pic, at right) is a mom of two boys, ages five and two. She is fighting acute mylogenous leukemia (AML) and is in urgent need of a bone marrow transplant. No matching donor has been found, and Erica is running out of time. Her husband Harley was a law school classmate of mine. He is asking everyone to please consider joining their country’s donor registry – the person who can save Erica’s life could be anywhere. The majority of matches are between unrelated people.
Fewer than 1 in 500 people who register are ever contacted to donate, but if you are a match, you can save a life – maybe even Erica’s. The process starts by filling out a simple online questionnaire. If you are eligible to donate, your registry will send you a kit to take a cheek swab and return it to them. In most cases, registering is free. Joining the registry does not obligate you to donate.
If you are a match, there are two ways to donate. The most frequently used method is via peripheral blood stem cells. It is similar to donating blood, but you take a drug for a few days before the donation to pump up your blood-forming cells. The other method involves day surgery under a general anesthetic. A needle is inserted into the pelvic bone through a small incision and the marrow withdrawn. In both cases, people return to work within 1-7 days and feel completely recovered within 2-3 weeks. It takes the body only 4-6 weeks to replace the donated cells or marrow. The donor’s medical costs are usually completely covered.
Here are links to the donor registries for the top four English-speaking countries that make up the traffic for this blog. If I haven’t included your country, a simple Google search will probably bring up your registry’s website.
In Canada: www.onematch.ca (I registered here today.)
In the USA: www.bethematch.org
In Britain: http://www.nhsbt.nhs.uk/bonemarrow/
In Australia: http://www.abmdr.org.au/
The Internet can do amazing things. A guy from Toronto recently took up an online collection for an elderly bus monitor in New York after viewing a Youtube video of her being bullied on the bus. He wanted to send her on a nice vacation. Within weeks, he raised over $600,000 for her. Imagine what could happen if everyone who read this post decided to register as a potential donor?
Thanks for reading this. I’m hoping for some magic.
Please feel free to share and distribute this post – Erica’s match is out there, somewhere.
If you would like to know more about Erica’s story, here is an e-mail from her husband, Harley, explaining what they’ve gone through over the past month:
Hello, Thank you for taking the time to read this e-mail. This is our urgent plea to you and to everyone that you know to help my amazing wife/our boys' super-mama Erica find a suitable bone marrow transplant donor to help to save her life and to get her back home to our two young boys (ages 2 and 5). I have attached a pic of Team Harris from a few months ago and a recent pic of Erica in hospital. On the afternoon of June 6th, we were told that Erica had acute mylogenous leukemia (AML). She was immediately admitted to the Leukemia/BMT ward at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) and a first round of chemo was started on June 8th. The first round lasted 7 days. The intent of chemotherapy for AML (an acute form of blood cancer) is to wipe out all of the bad (leukemic) as well as the good cells in Erica's bone marrow (where blood cells are formed and grow). What the doctors are looking for after the chemo treatment is for the bone marrow to be entirely clear of all cells, enabling Erica's healthy cells to start growing again without the bad leukemic cells (essentially pressing a bone marrow "reset" button). When the bone marrow is clear after chemo and the recovery period, the doctors call it "remission". On June 21st, Erica had a bone marrow biopsy to determine if the 1st round of chemo had done its job. Instead of a clear marrow, what showed was about 10% "immature" cells. The concern of her doctors was that these were bad leukemic cells that were not destroyed by the chemo. On June 28th, Erica had another bone marrow biopsy. We received the results the next day, on Friday, June 29th. These results showed clearly that the 1st round of chemo did not do its job. As of June 28th, the bad leukemic cells were estimated at 60% to 70% of her marrow. When this all started at the beginning of June, before any chemo treatments, her bad cells were estimated at 26%. What does this mean? For starters, we were told that this result means that she is in the "high risk" designation for AML. Very high doses of different, harsher chemo drugs and a bone marrow transplant (BMT) are the urgent course of treatment. They started what they call "salvage" chemo on Saturday morning (June 30th). This aggressive round of chemo lasts 6 days, with a 4 to 6 week estimated "recovery" period afterwards. We were also told that if this chemo does not do its job and put Erica's leukemia into remission that there are no other courses of treatment for Erica at VGH. Assuming this harsher chemo does its job, Erica needs a BMT right away. The BMT has to occur shortly after this round of chemo, once remission is indicated (ie that the marrow is clear of the bad leukemic cells). We need your urgent assistance with the bone marrow. We need to find Erica as close a match as possible for her BMT from an un-related donor. There are international bone marrow donor registries that are being searched right now. As of Friday, the doctor indicated that a match had not been found yet. Further, if a match is found somewhere in the world, that donor has to confirm their consent. Our window of time is very short to find a suitable, willing donor if the chemo does its job and the marrow is clear. If you, or someone you know, agree to donate, and get on the donor registry very quickly, you may be able to assist Erica. Please encourage friends, colleagues and family to sign up to the registry to donate their stem cells/bone marrow if they are able. Please circulate and post this information and our plea everywhere you can. For those of you in Canada, below is a link to the "One Match" bone marrow registry run by Canadian Blood Services (CBS). Information about the registry and forms to complete are on this site: http://www.bloodservices.ca/centreapps/internet/uw_v502_mainengine.nsf/p age/Join_OneMatch?OpenDocument I have also attached the One Match information package from the website as a pdf to this e-mail for ease of reference if you prefer a hard copy to read. There is a process to follow. Once you sign up online, CBS contacts you in 8-10 business days and sends you a swab kit - you can contact your local CBS office to see if you can shorten this timeline and/or have the swab done at their location. Time is of the essence. Also, if you, and/or anyone you know, are able to donate blood and/or platelets - this is also very important. Erica had a number of transfusions of platelets and hemoglobins in her first round of chemo and we anticipate there will be many more transfusions during this next chemo treatment. You never realize how important donating blood and platelets really is until you are receiving them. Thank you for your thoughts, prayers, strength and support. Thank you for spreading the word and circulating our plea. Thank you for helping to bring Erica home. Faith, Hope and Love Team Harris "Go Fighters Go" (This is what our boys say to their mama to help her get her healthy "fighter" cells working again in her body).