After leukemia began mercilessly sapping the life out of her young body, Joey Stott of Lena, Ill., knew she needed a miracle to survive. That miracle turned out to be Tom Wilhelm of Colorado. Tom had signed up as a marrow donor through BeTheMatch.org, joining a growing registry of 12 million people willing to give a small piece of themselves to save the life of someone they have never met.
After leukemia began mercilessly sapping the life out of her young body, Joey Stott of Lena knew she needed a miracle to survive. That miracle turned out to be Tom Wilhelm of Colorado.
Tom had signed up as a marrow donor through BeTheMatch.org, joining a growing registry of 12 million people willing to give a small piece of themselves to save the life of someone they have never met. After a successful transplant, Joey is healthy and happy to have her life back.
Although some donors never meet their marrow recipients, Joey and Tom were brought face to face by a television show. Thousands of American’s tuned in Nov. 15 as ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” shared the story of Joey and her family. They were struggling to regain their lives in the wake of a series of tragedies. It was the first time Joey and her family could offer their eternal gratitude to Tom for the gift of life he had generously shared.
Witnessing Joey and Tom’s meeting was an emotion-wrenching experience, but also a motivational one. As the community rallied to provide manpower, money and materials to replace the Stott’s fire-ravaged home in rural Lena, the event featured other ways to help: blood drives, food collections and bone marrow registry.
Go ahead: Register
Online registration took less than 10 minutes. There are a few basic questions to determine eligibility to be a donor. The registry is open to people between the age of 18 and 60. Some of the conditions that prevent eligibility include HIV, hepatitis, chronic lung disease, most forms of heart disease or cancer, current sleep apnea and insulin-dependent diabetes.
There is no fee to join the registry. There is an opportunity to donate on the Web site when filling out the registry, but it is free to join – just click through the screen asking for payment and the fee is waived at the end, thanks to donations the center has already received.
In about a week, a test kit will arrive; it’s very simple to use. The kit includes four swabs, one for the top and bottom of the left and right inner cheeks, a holder, and a pre-addressed postage-paid envelope in which to return the samples.
Using the same force as brushing your teeth, simply rub the swab on the inner cheek, collecting cells. Place a supplied bar code on each of the swab handles, place them into the mailer, seal the package and drop it in the mail.
In about five to six weeks, your tissue will be typed and added to the registry. If you are a match for someone in need of bone marrow, you will be contacted with instructions on the next step of the donation process.
Give the ultimate gift
As we enter the holiday season, the act of giving is gently coming to the forefront of our thoughts. After witnessing the difference a bone marrow donation made for the Stott family, I cannot imagine there is any greater gift someone battling leukemia could possibly receive this year. Being able to offer that gift is heart-warming to the donor as well.
As soon as I dropped the swab-filled envelope in the mail, my heart swelled as I thought this simple gesture may be able to give life back to a family who is balancing at the brink of despair. It’ a wonderful feeling, and I’d like everyone to experience it this year.
To register, visit www.BeTheMatch.org or call the organization at (800) 627-7692.
Lori Kilchermann is assistant managing editor at The Journal-Standard in Freeport, Ill. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.