Kaplan, Medical Center spearhead bone marrow registry drive

pramati@macon.comJune 12, 2013 

When Jaime Kaplan was first diagnosed with leukemia in May 2010, she learned that none of her brothers or sisters was a match to donate bone marrow that could save her life.

So the former Macon councilwoman and local tennis star turned to the National Marrow Donor Program and found seven potential people on its registry who had the matching 10 genetic markers her doctors needed.

“I had seven 10 out of 10 matches,” she said. “My doctor said that’s unheard of.”

Eventually, doctors selected a 23-year-old Toronto man, who donated the marrow that helped Kaplan beat the disease. Kaplan went into remission, though she still undergoes a scan every six month to make certain she is still leukemia-free.

Kaplan is working with The Medical Center of Central Georgia on a marrow registry drive Friday at the hospital’s Center for Ambulatory Surgery lobby, 1014 Forsyth St. The goal is to sign up as many people as possible for the registry.

Nancy White, a city councilwoman who serves as director of oncology services at the Medical Center, said it’s a relatively simple process to join the registry.

Those looking to join the registry fill out a medical history and get the inside of their cheek swabbed.

“It’s just a cheek swab,” White said. “It’s nothing invasive.”

White said potential donors between the ages of 18 and 44 stand the best chance of having a successful marrow transfusion. She said there’s a real need to get as much diversity on the registry as possible. At the same time, people of ethnicities often have a higher chance of finding a match among those from the same background.

Kaplan, for example, is Jewish, as is her donor.

“We need more African-Americans,” White said. “Ethnic makeup is a big part (of finding a match). ... This drive is for everyone, but minorities really need to look for other (similar) minorities for a match.”

Should registrants be a match for a patient, their marrow is harvested either by a blood transfusion or by a needle inserted into the back of the pelvic bone. The latter process is done under general or local anesthesia.

According to the registry’s website, www.marrow.org, about one in every 540 people will be a match. A person on the registry who is contacted as a match can still back out of the procedure, White said.

Kaplan said about 350,000 people each year are diagnosed with leukemia, and about 240,000 die from it.

“Seventy percent of the people who need a transplant can’t find a donor,” she said, adding that the patient’s insurance will cover the costs for the person making the marrow donation.

In addition to treating leukemia, marrow can be used to treat other diseases, including lymphoma and sickle cell anemia, White said.

The registry drive will run from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Friday. Macon Mayor Robert Reichert is scheduled to visit the drive at 10 a.m. to proclaim “Marrow Donor Day” in Macon.

For more information about the registry, visit www.marrow.org.

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