My extended family lives the maxim “One for All and All for One!” (“Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno” for my Latin linguist friends)
When word got out that “Big Marina needs a blood stem cell transplant and none of her siblings are a match” everyone got busy. (In case you’re wondering, “Big Marina” refers to me as the eldest of two first cousins named after our Yia-yia, our Greek grandmother. I am also physically larger than my talented and beautiful cousin, “Little Marina”)
Cousins, in-laws, out-laws, and friends have joined the Bone Marrow Donor registry in hopes of being my match ~ at donor drives in their communities and by ordering a kit online. These great people are prepared to donate their bone marrow/stem cells to anyone in need.
Our Race to Beat the Odds
With more than 4,000 characteristics of HLA types, there are literally millions of potential combinations. The odds of finding a full genetic twin are staggeringly small. Transplant doctors look for 10 matching HLA types of donor and patient. Only 1 in 540 donors in the registry end up donating their bone marrow/stem cells. It’s no wonder that 3,000 children and adults die each year waiting for a match.
Race and ethnic heritage (in terms of genetic history, not man-made political jurisdictions) influence these combinations. I’m still learning that my genetic ancestors are more diverse than Greek, Irish, French, and German. (The info from the DNA I sent to 23andMe continues to grow.)
WIth all this in mind, it is in everyone’s best interest to increase the number of donors in the registry. My ‘Matched Unrelated Donor’ (MUD) is likely to register through a donor drive run somewhere else.
Since we are a goal-oriented people, we hope that the donor drives done on my behalf result in at least 1,080 new donors; a life saver for me and another could be in the mix. All it takes is a cheek swab. Can it be any easier to pay it forward?
My Family Diaspora Swabs the US
In two months time, family and friends will complete five bone marrow donor drives across the country.
My mom, Eileen, with sign created by Thea Nini & Little Marina
My Thea Nini (Aunt Elaine) Sampanes Badoian orchestrated a Bone Marrow Donor Registration drive at the Greek Orthodox Church in Houston, Texas in April. She worked with Be the Match.
|Mtn Pointe HS in Tempe, AZ ran a great drive!
Donna Barry Sampanes, my sister-in-law, organized a donor drive at Mountain Pointe High School in Tempe, Arizona two weeks ago. Donna is doing a follow up this weekend! She also worked with Be the Match.
My neighbors and dear friends, Libbi and Dave Wengryn, organized a drive to register donors at our kids’ high school ~ Peachtree Ridge High School in Suwanee, Georgia. Katrina is making posters, Alex is distributing information and the Peed and Wengryn kids are recruiting donors and will assist during the drive. The drive is this Friday, May 10th from 10 am – 3 pm.
My cousin Christina and her parents (Ted and Linda Sampanes) are organizing a donor drive at the Greek Orthodox Church in Marietta, Georgia later this month (also with Be the Match).
Grand Rapids, Michigan
The home church for our Sampanes family is Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Family friends are organizing a donor drive on my behalf.
Waterford & Milwaukee, Wisconsin
My amazing nephew and godson, Patrick Goldammer, is going to run a big donor registration drive as his Eagle project with the Boy Scouts. It’s a big task for a 12 year old! Stay tuned for more information.