Peter: “I know from personal experience just how important stem cell donors are. In 2005 I was diagnosed with a lymphoma and, after three relapses, I needed an unrelated bone marrow transplant. The patient needs a match with a donor on the HLA (Human Leukocyte Antigen MHC) system to avoid the likelihood of rejection, which could decrease the patient’s quality of life and lead to death, which unfortunately happens to some”.
Arthur: “After 24 years in the field of histocompatibility and immunogenetics and losing too many patients from the region, we started the Caribbean bone marrow registry in 2014 with our great team of Drs. Charlton, Askar and Wharfe. We have patients around the world, some of which have had successful transplants. We are dedicated to spreading awareness and providing service to patients. Our Diversity Programme, via the World Marrow Fund, encourages donors from underrepresented groups to register with their local registries”.
Donors are heroes and it doesn’t take much effort to become one. You can do so by contacting your local registry, visiting their website, or those of related blood banks and patient advocacy groups. In the Netherlands this is www.matchis.nl and in the Caribbean www.caribbeanmarrow.org or you can simply ask Google: “How to become a stem cell donor in …?”.
Registering as a donor only takes a few minutes, after which you will be asked to send in a buccal swab to determine your HLA typing. This is filed in the worldwide connection of databases enabling haematologists to search for suitable donors on behalf of their patients. If there is a match, the donor is contacted and asked to donate their stem cells. This costs 4 to 6 hours but is not painful.
Non-Caucasian donors are desperately needed. There are by far too few donors of African descent and from other underrepresented groups in registries and current chances of finding a match for these patients is quite low.
So why should people around the world do this? Because it is so simple, and there is nothing more beautiful and important than helping another human being!
Peter: “Be aware that helping one person with your donation also makes other people happy. The simple fact that I am still alive is good for me, but it also means that my wife did not become a widow; that my two sons still have a proud father; that my parents did not have to bury their only child and that my best friend has his best bike ride with me every Sunday”.
Helping another human being is done by heroes. Please become a hero.