Bone Marrow: Swab Your Cheek, Save a Life
When Courtney Gray Haupt walks down the street she cannot help but look into the faces of the strangers streaming past and wonder: "Could it be you? Could it be you? Could it be you?"
In March Courtney's husband, Jonathan, 32, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and doctors say his only hope for recovery is to find a matching blood marrow donor. The couple live in Silver Spring but their search for a matching donor has gone international. Doctors are consulting donor registries in Europe and Israel. Courtney thinks there might be a match closer to home and thus you are invited to "Team Haupt" bone marrow drives this Saturday at the Reston Town Center and Sunday at the Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation in Reston.
"His sister keeps saying 'I always told him he was unusual,'" said Courtney. "Now it's coming back to bite him."
Jonathan, who works in IT, just happens to have a unique allele--one of the genes that must be matched for the transplant to be successful. Said Courtney: "Part of the issue is he is Jewish, and any minority has a harder match just because there's less minority representation in the database. The second piece is his allele. It's just one of the rare kinds out there.... In general the odds are 1 in 30,000. If we can get enough people out we should be able to find his match."
Checking your marrow type is easy: a few quick swabs of the mouth with a Q-Tip. If you're a match, 70 percent of the time all doctors need is to draw some blood. About a third of the time they need to draw marrow from the pelvis, a procedure that leaves the donor sore for a day or two.
"A little discomfort is completely worth the knowledge that you've saved someone's life," said Courtney.
While Jonathan is doing another round of chemotherapy at Johns Hopkins, his friends and family have organized a dozen donor drives in the coming weeks, from Reston to Boston. Meanwhile, Courtney gazes at strangers, silently wondering, "Could you be the one?"
July 10, 2009; 8:37 AM ET
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