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Friday, February 4, 2011

Black History Month and the Need for Black Marrow Donors

Please don't think because you're not Black, this post doesn't apply to you. It does. It applies to all of us.

In honor of Black History Month, $75,000 is what Nordstrom is willing to sponsor when you register to be a Marrow or Stem Cell Donor by using this particular link to the Be The Match Website from February 1st – 28th, 2011. The cost to process each registrant is about $100 and Nordstrom has partnered with Be The Match to sponsor up to $75,000 of testing for one month. This is in an effort to increase the number of potential African American and Black donors to "Be The Match" aka the National Marrow Donor Program.

Why Register to be a Bone Marrow or Stem Cell Donor?
Because there are so many people suffering from potentially fatal blood diseases like Leukemia, MDS (like my cousin Tami) and Sickle Cell Anemia. For many, a bone marrow or adult stem cell transplant is their only chance at surviving their illness.

Because matches are made through chromosomes called leukocytes, not blood, matches are usually found when the patient and donor belong to the same ethnic group.

Sounds simple enough until you learn that only 7% of Be The Match Registry's 9 million members are of African American/Black descent. This means most Black patients have a very slim chance of finding a match in the registry. That they suffer from Sickle Cell Anemia (which can be treated/cured with a marrow tansplant) at a higher rate than other ethnic groups is also cause for a great deal of concern.

One thing that upsets me is when people are quick to dismiss the lack of ethnic diversity in the donor registry as "not their problem." It's a short sighted way to look at a very complex issue. For starters, no ethnic group, not even Caucasians, who find a match 80% of the time, find a match every time. That means 20% of Caucasian patients will not survive because a match wasn't found. If you're an ethnic minority or you're of mixed ethnicities your odds of finding a match are far less. Your odds are 30% or less a match will be located.

So even if you're thinking you're not Black so you can't help, you would be wrong. The odds that you'll know someone (family member, friend or colleague) who is stricken with a disease like Leukemia or a life threatening form of Anemia at least once or several times in your lifetime, are higher than you probably realize so encouraging others to join the registry today could save someone you care about later.

Add to that that occasionally, matches are found between people of different ethnic groups and that will hopefully be reason enough to at least consider becoming a potential donor and/or helping to recruit others to join the registry.

Photos from the Nordstrom Website

I've been in the registry since 1995 and have never been a match for anyone yet. I hope I am someday. I would donate in a heartbeat. From all accounts I've read online side effects from donating marrow (from the hip bone) or PBSC (stem cells donated through aspheresis like plasma) range from none at all to mild stiffness or nausea. Little to no discomfort to possibly save a life? Yup, I'd do that.

CLICK HERE to learn about the almost painless PBSC (Peripheral Blood Stem Cell) donation method about marrow donation from the back of the hip (pelvic) bone.

CLICK HERE to Register to be a Marrow or Stem Cell Donor through Nordstrom's generous program to grow the Marrow Donor Registry. You could save a life.


  1. Awesome post Stacie! Thanks for helping to spread the word about the partnership between Be The Match and Nordstrom.


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