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Potential blood marrow donors needed to join national registry

Tue, August 14, 2018

Potential blood marrow donors needed to join national registry
Amy Osbahr and C.J. Phillips

A LaGrange family’s struggle to find a blood marrow donor for their 6-year-old daughter is inspiring others to join the National Marrow Donor Program’s “Be The Match Registry.” The registry helps the National Marrow Donor Program identify a genetic match for patients who do not have a fully matched donor in their family.

Amy Osbahr, physician and advanced practitioner recruiter for WellStar Medical Group, and C.J. Phillips, histologic technologist at WellStar West Georgia Medical Center, both decided to join the registry after their children’s young classmate, 6-year-old Maylee Highland of LaGrange, experienced a relapse in June of acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

“With our children being friends with Maylee, it’s hard to imagine what they are going through,” Osbahr said. “Joining the registry was a small way that we could help.”

Instead of joining her kindergarten classmates on the first day of first grade, Maylee began first grade on August 9 in her hospital room in Atlanta. She is undergoing another round of chemotherapy as she and her family await the news that a blood marrow donor is the match she needs to beat leukemia.

Diagnosed when she was 3 in September 2015, Maylee’s aggressive six-month treatment—including surgery, chemotherapy, spinal taps, bone marrow biopsies, and countless days and nights in the hospital—seemed to help. Maylee and her family were overjoyed when doctors declared her cancer in remission in early 2016. Part of her celebration included being honored as the grand marshal in Troup County’s 2016 Relay For Life for the American Cancer Society.

But on June 27 this year, Maylee and her parents, Kristin and Trevor Highland, learned her AML had returned. She is undergoing another round of chemotherapy while the family awaits a match for a blood marrow donor.

Kristin Highland conveyed to friends and family on Maylee’s Facebook support page, “Prayers for Maylee,” that without a donor, her daughter will not survive her fight against cancer.

Maylee had three strong potential donors through the “Be The Match” program, Kristin wrote on August 2, but the most promising one unexpectedly declined.

Kristin said the family is “more than grateful” to donors who have offered to help by registering in the “Be The Match” program. The other two potential donors are women ages 40 and 53, who have both sent in blood samples and are willing to donate their blood marrow. Now, it’s a waiting game to see if they have a clean bill of health.

“I am forever grateful for the two that are more than willing to save our child’s life,” Kristin wrote on the Prayers For Maylee page. “It’s a special feeling to know that someone else loves our child, a complete stranger to them, so much that they are willing to save her life. It’s such an incredibly special feeling, and it makes my heart sing.”

Kristin said Maylee has only one wish: “a life without cancer.”

“That’s her biggest wish and greatest dream, and she’s only 6 years old.”

Potential donors can join the registry at join.bethematch.org/south. By joining, a donor is volunteering to be listed as a potential blood stem cell donor, ready to save the life of any patient in need of a transplant.

On the website, potential donors begin the process by answering a series of questions about their medical history to see if they meet basic qualifications. If so, the Be The Match program will send them a cheek swab in the mail for a DNA sample. They’ll then swab their cheek and send the DNA sample back to complete their registration.

Anyone between the ages of 18-44, in general good health willing to donate blood stem cells to any patient he or she may match is eligible to join the Be The Match Registry. Research has shown that cells from younger donors lead to more successful transplants. Those between the ages of 45 to 60 also may register, though they will be required to cover the $100 cost of joining.