One person's gift gives another life
November is National Marrow Awareness month, and Dana-Farber Cancer
Institute is encouraging people to help save lives by registering to be a
On any given day, thousands of men, women, and children are searching
for a life-saving donor. These are people who are diagnosed with
leukemia, anemia, myelodysplastic disorders, and other diseases that
require treatment by stem cell transplant. Nearly 70% of these patients
must rely on an unrelated donor to offer them this precious gift.
Jaime Skillen is one such person who registered with the National
Marrow Donor Program and was called upon to donate stem cells to someone
she had never met. When asked why she decided to join the registry,
Jaime said it was a life-changing experience. "I encourage anybody to
join. You never know who's out there who needs you."
Esther Zaff, who received the cells donated by Jaime, explains what
Jaime's decision to donate meant to her. "She didn't just give me back
my life, she gave me back my whole world," said Esther. "Every day I
wake up and I think about Jaime, every single day. Without her, I'm not
"Finding a compatible donor is always a challenge, and certain tissue
traits of the donor and the patient must match," said Joseph H. Antin MD, chief of the Stem Cell Transplantation Program and medical director
of Dana-Farber's unrelated donor program. "The best potential donor
most likely comes from the patient's same ethnic group, and many
minority groups are under-represented in the national registry. More
donors of diverse race and ethnicity increase the opportunity that all
people will have an equal chance of finding a matched donor."
Joining the national registry is a simple process and requires only a
small saliva test, but becoming a volunteer donor is a serious
commitment. Those who join the registry are asked to remain committed
until their 61st birthday and be willing to donate to any patient,
anywhere in the world, regardless of the patient's sex, age, race, or
ethnicity. Such a pledge can mean the difference between life and death
for the patient.
"Helping to give someone's parent, sibling, or child a second chance
at life is a rare gift," said Deborah Liney, technical director of
unrelated donor/transplant programs at Dana-Farber. "Often there is
only one matched donor in the entire world. Too often there are none."
For information on how to become a donor please call (866) 875-3324, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit Dana-Farber online at www.dana-farber.org/nmdp.
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (www.dana-farber.org)
is a principal teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, a
federally designated Center for AIDS Research, and a founding member of
the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center, a federally designated
comprehensive cancer center.