An Oklahoma City roofing contractor has been given the opportunity to save a life, on the wings of an industry colleague who died nearly two years ago.
Laura Green, of Platinum Roofing and Construction, plans to donate peripheral blood stem cells at the end of January for a 65-year-old American man who, without a successful transplant, will die from a rare form of lymphoma.
Green joined the Minnesota-based National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) in 2010 at a local blood drive held in honor of the late Dee Dee Dixon Rund, former president of the Oklahoma City Abstract & Title Co. who died Dec. 24 that same year following a battle with acute leukemia. She was 43.
Green, 44, jokes that she traded a cheek swab sample for a box of frosted blueberry Pop-Tarts, her favorite. But she's really excited about the opportunity.
Oklahoma Blood Institute records indicate 545 people were inspired by Dee Dee to register as potential marrow donors, spokeswoman Leslie Gamble said. As of September 2011, Oklahomans represented 42,000 of about 10 million donors on the registry, according to the NMDP. Two hundred residents have donated.
The need is great.
In Oklahoma alone, there were 1,790 new cases of blood cancers diagnosed last year, and 703 deaths, said Sean Simpson, executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. About 1 million people in the U.S. are living with, or in remission from, the various types including forms that are being successfully treated with chemotherapy and/or radiation, and new compounds in clinical trials.
For those whose only hope is a transplant, 70 percent lack matching donors in their family, NMDP spokeswoman Kirsten Lesak-Greenberg said. A patient's likelihood of having a donor ranges from 66 percent for blacks to 93 percent for Caucasians.
Green suspects the patient with whom she matched is Latino, as she is half Hispanic.
Her donation process will be similar to donating plasma or platelets, she's been told. Today, the collection process represents 76 percent of donations, Lesak-Greenberg said. But about 24 percent of the time, the patient's doctor decides the best method is an outpatient procedure with anesthesia, where doctors use a needle to withdraw liquid marrow from a donor's pelvic bone.
Green said she was prepared to do either, and didn't really think about saving a life until a friend pointed it out.
“I just thought I was doing something nice,” she said. “They could poke me and this guy will feel better.”
Rund's sister, Amber Dixon Patterson, is more than moved by Green's giving of herself.
“I'm excited that Laura joined the registry on behalf of my wonderful sister, and became aware of this potential lifesaving gift,” an emotional Patterson said on Tuesday. “My gratitude goes out to our community and everyone who joined the registry.”
How to join the marrow registry
People 18 to 44, who represent 90 percent of those asked to donate because research shows they provide the best chances, can have their cheeks swabbed at any of the 11 Oklahoma Blood Institute (obi.org) donor centers. They and older potential donors also may request do-it-yourself swab kits, with return envelopes, from the National Marrow Donor Program (BeTheMatch.org). Younger donors have about a 1 in 540 chance of being asked to donate. Since 1987, the registry has facilitated more than 50,000 transplants, including 5,500 last year. In Oklahoma, it has aided 283 transplants from Oct. 1, 1996, through Sept. 20, 2011.