185th Helping to Save Lives With Marrow Donor Program

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jeremy McClure
  • 185th ARW Public Affairs
Members of the 185th ARW participated in a Bone Marrow Registry Drive during the September Unit Training Assembley (UTA). After completing some brief paper work, members swabbed the inside of their check to provide a sample to be tested and typed. The samples will be added to a national registry of potential bone marrow donors.

Captain DeAnna Pennings of the 185th Medical Services was inspired to bring the C.W, Bill Young/DoD (Department of Defense) Marrow Donor Program to the base by 185th unit member Major Jerry Self's battle with Leukemia. Self has not needed the bone marrow transplant in his fight against leukemia, because current treatments have worked and his leukemia is in remission. However, he understands fully the importance of the bone marrow donor program. "If an individual gets to the point where they may need a bone marrow transplant, it [bone marrow transplant] many times is the only chance they have of surviving," said Self. "The bone marrow donor program is essential to saving people's lives, and there many success stories out there of how this program has worked."

The C.W. Bill Young/DoD Marrow Donor Program was created to match bone marrow donors with DoD casualty's that are in need of marrow transplants. These casualty's come from exposure to radiation and chemical warfare agents containing mustard as well as diseases such as leukemia.

The process of providing a sample takes only a few minutes. A potential donor provides some information and then swabs the inside of the donor's cheek. The samples are then sent to Annapolis, Maryland were they are entered into a registry. Donors remain on the registry until their 61st birthday.

If a donor is selected as a possible match, they will be asked if they are willing to proceed with the process. Pennings said that additional tests are conducted to ensure the donor is a match with a recipient. Once matched, and the donor agrees to go through with the process, the donor will be flown to one of three locations on the East Coast for the donation procedure.

"All expenses are paid for the donor through the program," Pennings said. The marrow is collected through one of two procedures that are relatively non-invasive and most donors recover fully in a couple of days.

Technical Sergeant Ryan Willis with the 185th ARW Aircraft Maintenance was selected to donate bone marrow in June 2002. Willis was flown out to D.C. twice for additional testing and the donation. "Only 1 in 10 people that receive the additional testing are accepted as donors. I just happened to be that one," Willis added. He said that the marrow was removed from his hip through four tiny holes. After a day of recovery, he was up and walking around D.C. on the second day. His donation saved the live of a 30 year-old woman who is doing fine today.

Pennings hopes the 185th can continue registering donors as part of a member's annual medical record review. By the end of September UTA over one-hundred potential donors had become registered with the program.

To learn more about the C.W. Bill Young/DoD Marrow Donor Program, log on to their website at www.dodmarrow.com.

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