Seeking marrow donor for animation writer/blogger Emru Townsend

Tom sez, "Emru Townsend, a well-known animation writer and blogger is in need of a bone marrow transplant." You can help.
In mid-December, Emru was diagnosed with leukemia, and a condition called monosomy 7. Due to the monosomy 7, he has an increased risk of the leukemia coming back, no matter how successful chemotherapy is. This is where you can help save his life.

Emru needs a bone marrow transplant. This kind of therapy is administered through a transplant of bone marrow stem cells from a matching donor. The highest chances for a match are from siblings, but his only sister is not a match. As a result, he must to turn to national and international bone marrow registries to find a compatible donor. There are 11 million donors worldwide, but there is still no guarantee that he will find a match: The chances of matching another person can be as high 1 in 450 or lower than 1 in 750,000. Time is of the essence as the optimal window of opportunity is in the first few months after remission.

Hell, even if you don't care about this one case, being on the marrow donor registry is just a Good Thing. The next person it saves could be you. Link (Thanks, Tom!)

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  1. Signing up for the bone marrow and stem cell donor program in Canada is dead simple. Simply go to this website:

    http://www.onematch.ca/

    and fill out the application form. In a couple of weeks, you’ll be contacted by phone to confirm your address and intent, then mail you a set of swabs. Swab your cheeks at home, drop the results in the mail, and that’s it.

    You will always have the chance to decline to donate at a later date if you decide that you’re not able to do so.

  2. Thought I’d chime in with the link for the donor marrow registry program here in the US:

    http://www.marrow.org/HELP/Join_the_Donor_Registry/index.html

    Also, a special appeal to readers of color! Because patients are most likely to find a compatible donor within their own racial and ethnic background, a diverse group of potential donors is needed and at present only a small percentage of the 6 million volunteer donors who have joined the national Registry are people of color (75% of the registry is Caucasian).

    Urgently needed are donors of Black and African American heritage, American Indian and Alaska Native heritage, Asian heritage, Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander heritage, Hispanic and Latino heritage, and people of multiple race.

  3. Good point, when are they going to develop reliable,immediate test screening for ALL donations instead of relying on profiling?

    Did you know in some countries, foreigner blood is smilingly received at blood drives and then quietly dumped?

  4. This is my brother. I can’t express how happy I am to see this. Thank you to the person who suggested the link.

    @Takuan: It doesn’t hurt much, or in the case of cytapheresis, maybe not at all.

    @Steven and Takuan: Both Emru and I were against the ban in Canada on gay donors before we found out he would need a transplant from an unrelated donor. We have asked our friends who are ineligible to speak up about the ban, write their representatives, but also encourage others to donate, since this limits the pool further.

  5. Well, I am not allowed to be a blood or organ doner because I am a gay man living in the US. So, I imagine that bone marrow donations are likewise restricted to straight people. Even though I’ve never had a sexually transmitted or blood-borne disease and have been in a 15 year monogamous relationship I can’t help you out here. Hey, maybe Lindsey Lohan or Amy Winehouse can hook you up, they are straight and often near a hospital (of one kind or another).

  6. for those who have been automatically excluded from donating because of prejudice and/or now outdated precautionary measures (and be honest; at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic when the most tenuous knowledge was being pieced together, a simple, flat-out ban on people identified as higher risk WAS the only tool available – AT THE TIME. What else would or could you do? One hell of a time to be a medical researcher.) – back to what I was saying; for those stupidly excluded today; why is there not a separate registry so these willing donors could be accessed and individually tested for specifics after type matching? Am I making sense here?

  7. Returning to Mr.Townsend;

    OK ,it doesn’ hurt, you have told people where to go on the web (and I have to say the OneMatch website could be made simpler – as in more simpleton-friendly, speaking as a pro), may I suggest a little more uncomplicated,direct explanation? To help the cause?

    For me anyway, the apprehension about registering and donating is significantly greater than a trip to the dentist. You have a valuable opportunity here to reach a great many people directly.

    My fears are: pain? (no, good!), recovery? fear of rejection? associated expense? down time? Dispel the FUD! More information. Please!

    I am selfish? Oh gods yes! Am I trying to be honest? At least a little.

    your serve

  8. Takuan, they used to segregate blood according to race, so even if the intentions are good, it doesn’t look too hot in the context of history. Probably they should just change it?

  9. you know, if I were in need of transfusion or transplant,I wouldn’t be overly interested in what contortions and social cretinisms were entailed in getting what was needed through the obstacle course of human stupidity.

  10. @Takuan: That’s Miss Townsend.

    If by profiling you are discussing the ban on gay donors, I agree, stop profiling.

    If by profiling you are discussing not discussing ethnic background at all, I disagree.

    For blood groupings, and even more so for bone marrow typing, ethnic background can play a huge factor. I am not talking about race, which is a construct mean to be divisive, and gives the appearance of being rigid, but this is just the fact of inheritance. The difficulty of this message is trying to get the registry diversified but also let people understand that ANYONE can be the match, even if the odds aren’t as good.

    Also: The process. If you would like an explanation of the process, there are descriptions of the process which I will post here tonight. Excruciating pain is a myth, although there is discomfort for a few days for a traditional donation after you wake up from surgery. The donor can be given pain medication to moderate it, but nothing extraordinary.

    Travel expenses, if any, are paid. If you get any type of medical leave at work, this usually qualifies as paid leave.

    Recovery. Discomfort in the hip or lower back is normal. Possible symptoms are limping, achiness, dizziness. 2-4 days max, and many people experience less than this. Most people feel at 100% after a week. Your actual bone marrow is replaced completely after 6 weeks.

    Fear of Rejection?? This is more the recipient’s fear and does not affect the donor’s health. Also, the donation process will not happen if there is a danger to the donor.

    I will be glad to answer any more questions you have. You can also email me and my brother directly via the appeal website.

  11. Dear Tamu:

    The “Mr.” was for Emru. The profiling was about sexual minorities.

    Thank you for the details, a clearer picture emerges.

    What I find most significant is that ANYONE might be the donor. Knowledge to spread.

    I believe it is human instinct to want to help each other. Kudos to BB for encouraging that.

  12. @Takuan: Well said. I, too, congratulate BB for posting this.

    You mentioned you went to the OneMatch website. Are you in Canada? There is a pretty good FAQ there once you find it.

    The donation process (this is from the US registry site):

    http://www.marrow.org/DONOR/When_You_re_Asked_to_Donate_fo/Donation_FAQs/index.html#process

    People should also keep in mind that the registries work together. Someone in the UK could end up matching someone in the US, for instance. So people can get involved in any country that has a registry.

  13. Bone marrow transplants (BMT) work. I have a cousin that fully recovered after a BMT after a battle with leukemia in his late 20s. It’s been over 20 years ago, and he is living a happy, healthy life thanks to someone who donated.

    I have posted your request on my blog.

    http://jessicabond.blogspot.com

    Keep the faith – there is someone who is a match out there.

    Blessings,
    Jessica Bond
    Medical Careerist

  14. so,any ill effects for the donor seem less than than the residue of a vigorous sparring match. One last question, is there an age range? I couldn’t see it.

  15. So I was inspired to go register – and I find I have to pay over $50 to do it! I’m a single mama of 2, working for a non-profit, and without health insurance. Our grocery budget is $120 a week. I try to ask myself, would I spend $50 to save a stranger’s life? Of course I would – and yet, I didn’t end up registering, it is nearing the end of the month and I’m short on funds.
    I was trying to live into going through surgery for someone, and I could do that – but to have to pay for the privilege … what do you all think? Anyone else surprised?

  16. @Jessica: Thank you very much for letting more people know about what’s happening.

    @Takuan: If you have more questions. Ask me if you can’t find it elsewhere. Yes, there is an age range. The minimum age is 18, and the maximum age varies between 45 and 60 depending on country. The reasons are twofold: stem cell transplants from older donors tend to have a lower success rate, and for people nearing 60 there are concerns about anaesthesia and general surgery that seem to be less of an issue the younger you are. I forgot to mention that surgery of all types carries some risk, even cosmetic surgery. However, surgery for a bone marrow transplant does not have added risk.

    @Bellamama: This is a good point! In some countries, notably the United States, there is a fee associated with registering. In Canada and the UK, it’s free. You do have some options:

    Insurance: I know you don’t have this, but people should look to see if their plan covers them. Many plans do.

    Join in person: If you are part of a group that is underrepresented, there are usually funds available to cover your fee when you register in person. Some underrepresented groups include people of African, Native, Chinese, Pacific Islander, and people of mixed heritage.

    Promotional codes: People can pay for promotional codes associated with a patient. Basically, supporters of the patient pay for a certain number of registrants, so the registrants won’t have to. If this is done for someone who is likely hard to match, it is generally assumed that you are using the code because you have a similar background. Others will simply encourage everyone they can to register. If you get a promotional code, then you can order a swab kit online, enter the code when you complete the form, and when you get the kit at your home, complete the swabbing according to intstructions and send it back.

  17. Thought I would send this link along too; a young lady who is also facing leukemia (for the second time) has been blogging about it since 2006 and recently recorded a video about it here. Please click through and watch.

  18. For those asking about eligibility, I offer the following anecdote:

    I am ineligible for giving blood, because I have spent more than three months cumulative in the UK between 1983 and 1999. I might be a carrier of vCJD (the human version of mad cow’s disease). When I filled out the form, it asked if I was eligible to give blood, and if not, why not. I answered truthfully, and when I was talking on the phone with a OneMatch representative, I asked about that.

    She said that if I were a match for marrow or stem cell donation, the doctor and recipient would be told about the risk of my having vCJD, and could make an informed decision as to whether or not to accept my marrow at the time. Personally, if it’s a choice between dying of leukemia & maybe, _maybe_ getting vCJD, I know what I’d pick.

    I would like to think that the same type of thing would apply to homosexuals that choose to join the program. If I were given the choice, I’d have to problem getting injected with gay marrow :) Of course, I’m assuming that the donor would be fully tested for any blood-borne diseases prior to donation, but I’d hope that’s true of any donor, regardless of sexual orientation.

  19. Another one @Bellamama:

    If you donate blood or platelets, you will most likely be able to request free registration for bone marrow for free. You should inquire about this if the other methods I desribe above are ineffective for you.

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