Got a match?

It isn’t easy for a 12-year-old to sit still. It is especially difficult for an active, independent 12-year-old like Lacey McClain, who, until her diagnosis of T-Cell ALL Lymphoma, had been active in school, sports, orchestra, and with family and friends. Lacey is waiting on a donor match for a bone marrow transplant. She is in desperate need of a donor, but none of her family members were a match for her.

swab760“It’s been really, really difficult to watch my daughter – who was very recently one of the most active kids I’ve ever known – become unable to do things for herself, and so sick she can’t get up. It’s hard not knowing what to expect,” says her mom, Chrissie Jurrens.

Lacey is not alone. Even though a bone marrow transplant is the best chance for a cure for patients with leukemia, lymphoma and certain other life-threatening diseases, 70 percent of patients who need a bone marrow transplant do not have a matching donor in their family. Which leads us (and them) to the Be The Match Registry, dedicated to matching patients with donors.

Here's how it works. First, a potential donor registers with Be The Match Registry. (This could be you, by the way. And we’ll tell you how, shortly.) Then doctors select a few possible donors based on initial tests and perform a few additional simple tests (cheek swabs) to find the closest match for the patient. According to the Be The Match website, only 8 percent of those on the registry will go on to be actual donors.

That's what makes Bryant Sullivan’s experience so unique. Back in 2012, Bryant’s mom, Joanne Sullivan, needed and received a bone marrow transplant from a total stranger. Bryant then decided to pay it forward and registered with Be The Match. In a curious sequence of events, he donated to a total stranger on Nov. 12, 2013 (11/12/13, for those keeping track at home). That date also happened to be Joanne Sullivan’s birthday. (We happen to love happy coincidences here.)

It would be great if everyone was as fortunate. To help make that happen, the William J. von Liebig Center for Transplantation and Clinical Regeneration at Mayo Clinic is teaming up with the National Marrow Donor Program and the University of Minnesota Rochester to host several bone marrow donor registry drives on or around Mayo Clinic’s campuses in Rochester the week of Feb. 10-14. The process is painless – unless filling out a form is a painful experience for you. There’s that cheek swab, and that’s it.

You can find the deets here. They are looking for folks between the ages of 18 and 44, so if you happen to be in the prime of your youth (unlike some of us), we hope you'll consider registering. And then bring your cheeky selves back to the In the Loop blog to share your thoughts.