Be The Match

I saw this on Facebook and then a friend also sent it to me as an e-mail.

Baylor

Here’s a picture of six year old Baylor Fredrickson, from the little league team I coached last season-the Red Wings we were called. Our team stayed together this year, but without Baylor. Baylor just vanished, which was a mystery, because a) he played with such enthusiasm, and b) we loved him and we thought he loved us back. Plus he was tough and smart: a born catcher. I just learned why Baylor Fredrickson didn’t show up for opening day: he has cancer.

For Baylor to survive he needs to find a bone marrow transplant. To receive a bone marrow transplant he needs a bone marrow donor, in the next three months. This I just learned from Baylor’s mother, Shari Fredrickson. “PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE,” she wrote to me, “reach far and wide to get our plea heard. When he says things like “when do you think I’ll be able to come home for good?” or “I can’t wait to go play laser tag when I’m better, can we?” I don’t really know what to say. As a parent you want to give your child the world. To give them the opportunity to achieve whatever their hearts desire. I just want to give him his life.”

Baylor is half Japanese and half German. I don’t begin to understand the science of bone marrow transplants, but Baylor needs a nearly perfect match, and that will likely come only from a person who is mixed race: half Asian, half Caucasian. The universe of his potential saviors is small: the doctors have told his mother that there is only one of them for every 70,000 Americans.

Now the good news: the world is newly configured to enable Baylor Fredrickson to find his match. There are supposedly 120 thousand or so people who will have this random post more or less shoved upon them by Facebook. (For that, thank you Facebook.) Among them, quite likely, is someone who can save Baylor Fredrickson’s life. If ever there was an argument to end all arguments against social media, here it is.

Here’s what you can do. If you are not half Asian and half Caucasian you might think of someone who is—or simply forward this on to someone who might know someone who is. Don’t wait until tomorrow to do it. We have three months.
If you happen to be half Asian and half Caucasian it’s actually pretty easy to figure out if you can save Baylor Fredrickson’s life. Anyone living in the United States who cannot make it to a donor drive can go to the Asian American donor program web site: http://www.aadp.org/homekit/. A free kit will be mailed to you, which you can use at home and send back.

Or you can get in touch with AADPs Executive Director, Carol Gillespie: Carol@aadp.org.

Anyone living outside of the Unite States can find the program to register in their country at http://marrowdrives.org/bone_marrow_donor_programs.html.

Apparently sane human beings will happily blow money on a one in a million chance to win the lottery—when all the evidence shows that winning the lottery doesn’t make you happier. And yet those same apparently sane human beings hesitate (it sounds like trouble; they don’t have the time) to test their far better odds of saving the life of a delightful seven year old boy.

I agree: it’s not easy to win this sort of lottery. If you are the lucky winner you will need to spend 45 minutes in a hospital, to have some bone marrow cells removed from you. You won’t feel a thing during the procedure but your hip will be a bit sore for a few days afterwards. It won’t cost you a penny but you won’t make any money either. On the other hand, I can almost promise you this: the winner of this lottery will, for some time to come, feel like a million bucks.

Of course it made me think of my nephew. What if it was my nephew? Or someone I knew? Of course I’d want to help. Why should it be any different that I don’t know this little boy?

And I am in the ethnic demographic they are looking for. Turns out I’m toward the upper end of their preferred age window, but I still went to the AADP website and signed up. I got an e-mail that they were getting an overwhelming response and so referred me directly to the Be The Match website. Simple form to fill out, then wait for the sample kit to come in the mail.

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The kit had easy to follow directions – one swab for each quadrant inside your cheeks. Swallow, swab, label and put in the mailer to return. This goes into the bank, and, if one is determined to be a potential donor, additional testing is performed. (Mind wonders about database and how potential matches are found.)

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I don’t know anyone who’s been a donor, but the website makes it sound relatively straightforward and minimally invasive. I’m sure they don’t want to scare donors off, so maybe it does paint the best picture, but at the same time I think they have to be honest about what people are getting in to. Of course it’s only the sample kit stage, but so far everything has been just as they described.

From here, according to the website, the chance of getting called for additional testing is 1 in 40, the chance of being a serious contender is 1 in 300 and the chance of actually donating is 1 in 500. (hmn. How does that compare to the chance of being hit by lightning?) So who knows what will happen.

Prior to this I was not aware of the registry and the particular need for minority and mixed ethnicity donors, hopefully this will help spread the word. Even if you are not interested or able to be a marrow donor, you can help by financially supporting the registry.

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