Bone Marrow Needed: Program Recruits Volunteers To Register

Franque Thompson OMAHA (KPTM)- Every four minutes a person is diagnosed with a blood cancer, many times it's Leukemia. For those in need of a bone marrow transplant for the disease, 70 percent of patients don't have a matching donor in their family. A bone marrow registration program called Be The Match teamed up with the Nebraska Methodist College, Wednesday, to create awareness about the disease. The two hosted a registration event to recruit volunteers to become bone marrow donors. Shannon Struby knows exactly how important that can be. Her brother-in-law is diagnosed with Leukemia. His wife, sister and Struby could not help him because they're bone marrow did not match his. "If the shoe is on the other foot and you were needing a donor, you want to increase that registry so that your odds of finding one is better," said Struby. Struby said her brother-in-law was lucky enough to finally find the perfect match from a donor in Germany. However, for others in need, those odds might not be in their favor. "Leukemia, blood related diseases are overwhelming. Especially when you need a transplant and you can't find a donor in your own family," said Lagail Chism. Chism's granddaughter died of leukemia in 1998. She did have a donor, but Chism believes the 6-year-old may have had a better chance at life if her donor was of the same race. "The registry is very low of minorities. It was back in '98 and it still is today," said Chism. According to Be The Match, there are currently 10.5 million registered donors. 67 percent are Caucasian. Only seven percent are African Americans, as well as Asians. Hispanics come in at 10 percent. "It's just either they're not willing or they don't have the education, they don't understand that this is something that you can do to make a difference," said Struby. She continued, "Patients that are going through the same thing [as my brother-in-law], they're waiting for someone to register and be their match." Donors are suggested to be between the ages of 18 and 44. About 12,000 patients per year have no choice but to find someone outside of their family for a transplant that matches.