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Be the Match marrow drive slated for Massena


MASSENA - A town resident’s quest to organize a bone marrow drive was fueled by a touching story he saw on television, some local connections, and the inner-drive to help patients in need.

“To me, it’s technically in honor of anyone who is going through a marrow transplant,” said Jamie L. Sharpe of the April 28 drive at the Massena Elks Lodge, 20 Bowers St.

With help from Cindy Brockway, Massena, Mr. Sharpe has led a grassroots effort to advertise and fundraise for the drive, which will run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The mission, he said, is to save lives by registering as many new potential bone marrow donors on Be the Match, a nonprofit donor registry operated by the National Marrow Donor Program.

“Over 12,000 people a year come to the registry looking for a match and at present, about 6,000 patients find one,” said Michael J. Garbin, an Upstate New York recruiter for Be the Match. “Therefore, we need to add as many more members to provide every patient with at least one possible match.”

Mr. Sharpe said his interest was initially piqued while watching an episode of Extreme Home Makeover.

“There was this woman with leukemia and three kids, and she was going to die. One of her sons made a cancer-eating monster out of clay to eat the cancer away from his mom. It turned out that she found a donor, using Be the Match, from across the country,” he said. “If that doesn’t touch your heart, nothing will.”

Two local women - Waddington’s Brenda K. Stoner, currently battling acute myeloid leukemia, and Melinda S. Parmeter, Madrid, who passed away March 25 after a long battle with leukemia - Mr. Sharpe said, inspired him as well.

“I lived up the street and went to high school with Joseph Putney, Brenda’s son in law, and I know Mindy’s mother, Bonnie, personally,” he said. “So, in a sense, I have a connection.”

It takes about $100 to place each new donor on the registry, so donations are appreciated. Supplying a sample at Mr. Sharpe’s drive however, is free - and could potentially save a life, according to Mr. Garbin.

“Participating in the drive requires nothing more than filling out a medical questionaire and swabbing your mouth if you are deemed healthy enough,” he said. “That packet goes to the lab, and that’s where the money comes in.”

If a donor is found to be a match for someone suffering from leukemia or another life-threatening disease, the sample is sent to the closest hospital and the donor has one of two ways to donate.

“Eighty-five percent are peripheral blood cell donations (PBSCs). You get a needle in each arm and marrow cells are extracted and your blood is returned. It’s a simple four-hour process that involves two IVs and the donor sitting in a chair,” Mr. Garbin said.

Fifteen percent of the time - usually involving a child recipient under the age of 12 - a donor could be asked for an actual marrow donation.

“This is an outpatient surgical procedure where marrow is removed through your pelvis,” he said.

The method of donation is determined by the patient’s doctor, Mr. Garbin added, and Be the Match pays for everything.

“From parking to food to the procedure itself, there is no out-of-pocket cost whatsoever,” he said.

Mr. Sharpe said his goal is 100 samples and $500 to $1,000 in donations.

“The more donors there are, the better chance someone has. You can do that math all day long,” he said.

For more information or to make a donation, call Mr. Sharpe at 705-4805.

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