Be the Match

I type the word “Match” as a working title for this post and the dating website comes to mind.  Finding the right match can change your life! Today, I received a phone call that, if a particular match is right, could indeed change someone’s life. And no, it has nothing to do with dating.

A few years ago, I had registered with the National Marrow Donor Registry.  I have some knowledge of bone marrow transplants, and knew quite a few transplant recipients when I was working in the field of oncological social work.  I also knew some patients who needed (but never received) a transplant because no suitable donor could be found.

I finally got more information and contacted the Registry at www.BeTheMatch.org.  Even though I knew the basics of the transplant process, I read up on the procedure.  I knew that I would always have the chance to remove myself from the Registry if I so wished, and if I were contacted as a potential donor, I could still opt out.  Yes, it’s more involved than donating blood, but the process of getting on the Registry is easy.

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I knew when I signed up that I might be contacted, and today I received a call informing me that I had been identified as a possible donor match for a lady with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia.  (I’ve read that about half of one percent of people who register are identified as a possible match; even fewer of those become donors.)  One can be a possible match and still not be a donor because of a number of reasons, so I don’t know where this journey will lead.  What’s important is the best possible outcome for the 70-ish year old lady for whom I am a potential match, and if that’s me, then I’m in. Early 70’s? She’s young, and has a lot left to do in life! I don’t know her, but I want to help her.  I’m betting there are people who love her, and that she loves and wants to stick around for.

So, the next step for me is a repeat cheek swab test, and if her doctor determines I’m still a possible match, we follow up with blood tests, physical exam, etc. for further screening.  I also know that my own journey, even if I do wind up being a donor, will be nothing compared to hers.

I see the time commitment and discomfort as a small price to pay for someone else to gain life.  I feel very, very humbled. In spite of the small percentage of matches found among those who register, I wasn’t too surprised to get the call.  Maybe it’s because so many of my ancestors had very large families, I know I share DNA with a lot of people! (And who knows, I may share no DNA at all with the possible recipient.)

Or perhaps it’s because each year, when the Registry contacts me to confirm or update my contact information, I prayerfully consider and renew my commitment.  I say yes.  Yes to God, yes to whatever is in store, knowing that whether I ever serve as a donor or not, my being available brings more hope to people who will be searching for a match.

Find out more about being on the National Marrow Donor Registry at www.BeTheMatch.org.

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