Free bone marrow donor drive today in Cape Girardeau

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

It is a cause that has intrigued Emily LaValle for years, and with procedures simpler and more affordable than ever, she wants to spread bone marrow donation awareness throughout the community.

As the former president of the Cape Girardeau County Area Medical Society Alliance, LaValle said she wanted to sponsor a bone marrow drive in the community and knew the alliance would help. She presented information to the alliance board and the group set today for the drive.

"We always wanted to bring good health to the community and thought this would be a good fit," she said.

Be the Match Registry, a national foundation operated by the National Marrow Donor Program, charges $100 to register, but LaValle said the Medical Alliance will cover the fee for anyone who registers at the drive. The Medical Alliance's goal is to recruit 50 donors.

Denise Salmon, chairwoman of the committee for the bone marrow drive, said the donation procedure is a much easier and less invasive process than in the past.

"With medicine advancing the way it does, things are changing all the time," she said. "It's so much different than people think. It's simple, yet it is a little more than giving blood would be."

Individuals who want to register at the drive need to be between 18 to 60 years old, willing to donate to any patient in need and meet certain health guidelines. All potential donors will then complete a health history form and give a cheek swab to determine if they are a potential match for a patient.

If that individual is called as a match, there are two ways he or she would donate. According to Be The Match, the most common donation form, a peripheral blood stem cell donation, is a nonsurgical, outpatient procedure. The patient's doctor requests this procedure about 75 percent of the time. The other form, a marrow donation, is a surgical procedure performed at a hospital.

Salmon said the majority of marrow donations are simple surgical procedures.

"They say give it two to five days and you're back to yourself," she said.

LaValle said there is a need for people of all ethnic backgrounds to donate.

"We need many different ethnic groups to donate because it is specific to your race who you can donate to," she said.

According to Be The Match, patients are most likely to match the tissue type of a donor who shares their racial or ethnic heritage because tissue types are inherited.

Seventy percent of patients needing a bone marrow transplant do not have a matching donor in their family, and they depend on Be The Match Registry to find a potential donor.

Dr. Stanley Sides, hematologist at Cape Medical Oncology, said there are two types of marrow or stem cell transplants: autologous and allogeneic.

"There are many cancers especially leukemias and lymphomas that develop in our bone marrow and the lymph nodes of our body require chemotherapy to wipe out abnormal cells," he said. "When you give a very high dose of chemotherapy and radiation therapy to cure the cancer, the bone marrow may not be able to recover."

Sides said, an autologous stem cell transplant, patient's own cells are harvested and returned to the patient after the high dose of radiation and chemotherapy, does not always work because in some cases using the same cells may give back the cancers. For patients with this case, Sides said an allogeneic stem cell transplant, receiving harvested cells of a donor, is what the patient relies.

"The value of a bone marrow registry is to type many, many people to determine their genetic makeup so that we can match the patient that needs an allogeneic stem cell transplant to someone that can donate the stem cells," he said.

Salmon said the drive is something that has never been done in the area and there's a need to donate. She said she hope people of all ethnic backgrounds in the community will be interested.

"It takes being the person that wants to go the extra mile to help a human being," she said.

The bone marrow drive will be from 3 to 7 p.m. today at Saint Francis Medical Center in the Franciscan Room. For more information about the drive, e-mail Salmon at

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