Westfield Couple Organizes Virtual Bone Marrow Drive and Educational Event
Monday, August 19, 2013 • 7:27pm
WESTFIELD, NJ – When he was 57, Norward Harris of Westfield was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) and underwent a stem cell transplant at the John Theurer Cancer Center, Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack.
Now Harris and his wife, Linda, are marking his three-year post transplant anniversary with a virtual bone marrow donor drive and educational event to raise awareness of blood cancers.
It was through the Be The Match national registry that Harris found the anonymous donor who saved his life.
“I have begun the process to meet my donor and look forward to the opportunity to say thank you,” he told The Alternative Press of Westfield.
Finding a match can be a challenge. “The donor and recipient must be compatible on a genetic level, which is much more complicated than just blood type,” said Harris.
“Patients are most likely to match someone of their own race or ethnicity. I was among the 70 percent of patients without a matching donor in the family. My medical team searched the donor registry and fortunately a compatible donor was found, even though African Americans represent less than seven percent of committed donors. There are not enough registry members of diverse racial and ethnic heritage,” he explained.
To help others like himself, Harris and his wife, Linda, organized a virtual donor drive. Through Oct. 31, anyone in the US between the ages of 18 and 44 with a commitment to saving life and meeting the eligibility guidelines can take part by registering online at http://bethematch.org/Join and entering promo code BeTheOne4Hope.
“There have been so many advances in blood cancer research and treatments to improve the quality of life for patients and families. I wanted to give hope to other cancer patients that may need to find either a related or unrelated donor,” said Harris. “The virtual drive eliminates the need to search for a scheduled date or location for a donor drive. You can visit the website and follow the steps anytime, from anywhere, 24/7.”
Want to learn more about what’s involved in donating bone marrow? Visit marrow.org for the medical guidelines and further information about the process. You can also read Be The Match’s frequently asked questions at http://bethematch.org/Registry_Members/Donation/Donation_FAQs.aspx.
Norward and Linda Harris are also organizing a free fun and educational event to be held Sept. 18 in collaboration with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society NJ Chapter in Cranford, Gilda’s Club of Northern New Jersey, Community Blood Services (an affiliate of Be The Match) and the John Theurer Cancer Center, Hackensack University Medical Center.
“Making The Match: The Value of Being a Donor” will take place that evening from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Gilda’s Club Northern NJ, 575 Main St. in Hackensack. The featured speaker will be Michele L. Donato, MD, Medical Director, Blood and Marrow Collection Facility, John Theurer Cancer Center, Hackensack University Medical Center. To learn more and register for this free event, call Gilda’s Club at (201) 457-1670.