A bone marrow registry drive is part of an event this weekend sponsored by local firefighters who are raising money to fight blood cancers.
South Whatcom Fire Authority firefighters are hosting the bone marrow registry Saturday, Feb. 27, at Boundary Bay Brewery as part of its fundraising efforts for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s annual Firefighter Stairclimb, in which firefighters in full gear race up 69 stories of the Columbia Tower in Seattle.
Representatives from Be the Match and Bloodworks Northwest will collect medical history and DNA samples from potential donors so genetic information can be entered into a national database for bone marrow transplants.
You’ve given somebody the opportunity to live, who was 100 percent guaranteed to die.
Tanya Nobles, Bloodworks Northwest
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“It’s 10 minutes of paperwork and a cheek swab and you’re done,” said Tanya Nobles of Bloodworks Northwest, who handles community engagement, working closely with bone marrow donors and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
“Go into it with the mindset that you’re going to donate someday,” she said. “Some people who donate have known someone who died, or is a survivor, or someone who is walking around today because someone was willing to step up.”
Prospective donors must be between ages 18 and 44 and in generally good health. Cancer survivors are excluded, as are persons who suffer sleep apnea, have an auto-immune disorder or Type 1 diabetes. Those restrictions are for the health of the donor as well as the recipient, Nobles said.
“It’s the best kind of donation,” she said. “You don’t have to do it posthumously. It’s satisfying and it’s extremely, extremely powerful. We don’t have that opportunity very often, to have that kind of impact on someone’s life. It doesn’t get any bigger than that.”
So far this year, South Whatcom firefighters have raised more than $15,000.
South Whatcom firefighters are dedicating their climb this year to John Klein of Bellingham, who is still undergoing treatment but is considered in remission after a December 2014 bone marrow transplant from his brother.
“Hopefully, we can get people to (register),” said Klein, 29. “There are so many people going through this. It’s hard no matter how old you are.”
A cancer patient’s likelihood of finding a matching donor on the Be the Match registry is between 66 percent and 97 percent, according to Be the Match figures.
If you’re selected as a match, donations work two ways, Nobles said. Usually, donors get hormone injections for several days, then travel to Seattle for a day where they’re hooked to a machine that takes their blood, removes stem cells and replaces the blood. About 25 percent of the time, a recipient’s doctor requests a method that requires drawing stem cells from the donor’s pelvic bone, a procedure that must be done at an outpatient surgery center under general anesthetic.
“You’ve given somebody the opportunity to live, who was 100 percent guaranteed to die,” Nobles said. “People don’t understand the direness.”
Registry information will be inside Boundary Bay Brewery from 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday during a daylong fundraising effort that includes a silent auction in the afternoon and live music from 6 to 9 p.m. Firefighters in full gear will take turns on a stair-climbing machine and accept cash donations for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Boundary Bay Brewery is donating $1 per beer sold to the society.
South Whatcom firefighters have been participating in the Firefighter Stairclimb for more than a decade. South Whatcom Fire Authority is a combined career and volunteer department serving Sudden Valley, Geneva, Yew Street Road, Lake Samish and Chuckanut Drive.
So far this year, South Whatcom firefighters have raised more than $15,000. . Last year those firefighters raised a total of nearly $25,000.