*Josh Biyoyouwei suffered a stroke when he was barely 2 years old. The cause: sickle cell anemia, an inherited blood disorder.
Now 7 and wheelchair-bound, Josh faces a high probability that another stroke will strike—unless he receives a bone marrow transplant.
For patients battling more than 70 diseases, including sickle cell anemia and blood cancers like leukemia, a bone marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant can be a cure. Patients are most likely to match someone who shares their ancestry. But like many African Americans in need of transplants, Josh hasn’t found a matching donor.
That’s why Be The Match®is raising awareness about the critical need for more African Americans to volunteer as potential donors this July, which is African American Bone Marrow Awareness Month. Be The Match is the world’s leading nonprofit organization focused on saving lives through bone marrow and umbilical cord blood transplantation.
In the last three years, efforts during African American Bone Marrow Awareness Month have added nearly 10,000 African Americans to the national Be The Match Registry®, giving patients everywhere more hope for a cure.
But the need remains great. African American patients still have the lowest odds of finding a matching donor compared to all other populations. They also have the most diverse tissue types, which makes the matching process even more challenging.
This year, Be The Match will host bone marrow donor registry drives across the country, and a special online promo code, “AABMAM,” can be used to join the registry online by visiting Join.BeTheMatch.org/AABMAM. A dedicated landing page (BTMItsOnYou.org) shares the real facts about bone marrow donation—confronting common myths that donation is painful or costly—along with showcasing inspiring stories of real people who have donated bone marrow or received a life-saving transplant.
People like Altonet Fillmore, who answered the call to donate 16 years after she joined the registry as a college freshman. Now 35, Fillmore has a busy life, working in human resources for a Houston health care company and singing on the side. In fact, she’s competed on three national talent shows—Star Search, American Idol and Showtime at the Apollo. When Altonet received the call as a potential matching donor for a patient, she didn’t have any second thoughts. She knew she wanted to donate.
“It was a privilege and an honor to be able to give something that my body makes every day and be able to save a life,” said Fillmore, who donated in the summer of 2013 to a woman battling a rare blood cancer. The two women hadn’t met, but Fillmore couldn’t stop thinking about her recipient throughout the donation process.
“I wanted to talk with her to ease her mind,” Fillmore said. “I wasn’t worried about myself; I knew I would be fine.”
Jeffrey W. Chell, M.D., chief executive officer of Be The Match, reminds potential donors that joining the registry takes only a few minutes.
“But with that simple step, you could offer a waiting patient the chance at a healthy life that they’ve been waiting for—you could be the only one out of millions who could save that patient’s life,” Chell said. “This is especially important for African Americans. While we are diversifying the registry every day, we need more people from the African American community to join the registry and be committed to donating if called as a match for a patient.”
To get the real facts about bone marrow donation and sign up as a committed registry member, visit BTMItsOnYou.org.
About Be The Match
For people with life-threatening blood cancers—like leukemia and lymphoma—or other diseases, a cure exists. Be The Match® connects patients with their donor match for a life-saving marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant. People can contribute to the cure as a member of the Be The Match Registry®, financial contributor or volunteer. Be The Match provides patients and their families one-on-one support, education, and guidance before, during and after transplant.
Be The Match is operated by the National Marrow Donor Program® (NMDP), a nonprofit organization that matches patients with donors, educates health care professionals and conducts research so more lives can be saved. To learn more about the cure, visit BeTheMatch.org or call 1 (800) MARROW-2.
On Behalf of Be The Match