Be The Match® Urges African Americans to Step Up:
We Need You to Help Save Lives
July is African American
Bone Marrow Awareness Month
MINNEAPOLIS—June 23, 2015—Judah Wilks was 11 months old when he was adopted by a family in the United States and left the Democratic Republic of the Congo for the first time. After having limited access to medical care, Judah finally went for his newborn wellness checkup where his new parents received devastating news: Judah had sickle cell anemia, an inherited blood disorder.
Judah suffered a stroke before receiving an umbilical cord blood transplant in October 2013. A few months later, Judah’s body rejected the transplant, leaving his parents heartbroken once again. Now 3 years old, Judah needs a bone marrow transplant to save his life. But first he must find a matching donor.
A bone marrow or cord blood transplant can be a cure for patients battling more than 70 diseases, including sickle cell anemia and blood cancers like leukemia. Patients are most likely to match someone who shares their ancestry. But, like many African Americans in need of transplants, Judah has yet to find a matching donor.
That’s why Be The Match®, the world’s leading nonprofit organization focused on saving lives through bone marrow and cord blood transplantation, is raising awareness about the critical need for more African Americans to volunteer as potential bone marrow donors this July, which is African American Bone Marrow Awareness Month.
African American patients have the lowest odds of finding a matching bone marrow donor compared to all other populations. They also have the most diverse tissue types, which makes the matching process even more challenging.
Throughout July, Be The Match will host donor registry drives across the country to add more African Americans to the national Be The Match Registry®, giving patients everywhere more hope for a cure. A special online promo code, “AABMAM,” can be used to join the registry online by visiting Join.BeTheMatch.org/AABMAM. People can now join the registry from anywhere with internet access—home, work or even smartphones. To learn more, people can visit BeTheMatch.org.
The cure for sickle cell anemia and other life-threatening diseases is in the hands of ordinary people—people like 22-year-old Jasmine DeBerry. Jasmine answered the call to donate to a young child batting sickle cell anemia—just like Judah. Jasmine joined the registry as an 18-year-old, dedicating her registration to a friend who died from sickle cell anemia the previous year. So, when the busy college basketball star was called to donate in the midst of the season, she understood the importance of the donation and didn’t hesitate to move forward.
“We have the ability to help someone and it’s our responsibility to do so,” said DeBerry, who donated last August. “If you’re healthy, this is a very easy process and you should want to do it. Just think about the result—you’re giving somebody another chance at life.”
Jeffrey W. Chell, M.D., chief executive officer of Be The Match, reminds potential donors that the first step to save a life only takes a few minutes.
“We are asking African Americans to take 15 minutes today and join the registry,” Chell said. “You can sign up online or from your smartphone. It’s a simple step, but it means everything to patients like Judah and their families. Please consider joining the registry today, and if you are called as a potential match for a patient, say ‘yes’ to donating. Say ‘yes’ to saving a life.”
Sickle cell disease affects millions of people throughout the world. In the United States alone, sickle cell disease occurs among 1 out of every 500 Black or African American births. To get the real facts about bone marrow donation and sign up as a committed registry member, visit BeTheMatch.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.