Hwang to host bone marrow registry drive

On Saturday, Oct. 6, State Rep. Tony Hwang, R-134th District, and Be the Match Marrow Registry will host a donor registration drive at the Westfield Trumbull mall. The drive will be located in the Lord & Taylor Court, and will last from noon until 5 p.m..

At the age of 18, Fairfield resident Mary Ahlers was diagnosed with Paroxysmal Nocturnal Hemoglobinuria, a rare autoimmune blood disorder. Over the course of nearly two decades, she endured various treatments, including surgeries and medications, and over 100 blood transfusions.

Four and an half years ago, Ahlers said, “my one blood disorder morphed into three.” In addition to PNH, she developed Myelodysplasic Syndrome and Aplastic Anemia. At that juncture, her doctors concluded that her only option was a bone marrow transplant.

In these situations, it is very difficult for a patient to find a donor, simply because of improbability. Each year approximately 10,000 patients in the U.S. search the national database, which has 10 million participants, for potential bone marrow donors. However, just half of those patients will actually find a match in the database. Parents are almost never a match, and siblings have only a one in four chance of being a match.

The rescue came from a stranger in Germany, a woman Ahlers still has never met in person, and it was a success. Today, Ahlers said she is “cured,” and is presently a teacher at Masuk High School in Monroe.

Those interested in registering must be in good general health and between the ages of 18 and 44. Qualifying individuals should bring their insurance card to the drive. They should also be prepared to answer a brief medical questionnaire, and to provide a DNA swab of their inner cheek. Be the Match will file this information with the national database. Physicians treating patients in need of a transplant will contact potential donors only if they think a match is probable, at which point the donor retains the option commit to a donation or to withdraw.

It is not necessary to take the marrow from the bone. In fact, 70% of donors who are matched merely provide peripheral stem cells. These are extracted in the same manner as a blood donation.

Hwang, a founder of the Legislative Bioscience Caucus ,described himself as “the set-up person” for the drive. Be the Match Foundation will handle all of the particulars.

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