Bone marrow donor knows its importance

May 31, 2010 4:59:02 PM PDT
A little boy was saved from cancer by a bone marrow donor who was a match. Now his sister has the chance to donate life saving marrow cells to a stranger. .

The donation is especially important because it's a biracial match, which is difficult to get.

Micah Farmer models sun protective clothing. He's more sensitive to the sun since his marrow transplant for cancer. Now his sister is saving someone else.

"It's great to give back; somebody gave me my brother back, so it's nice to help somebody else's family out too," Stacey Farmer said.

Stacey, 23, was adopted and didn't match Micah. But because of Micah, she's on the Be the Match Registry.

And now she's a match for a 61-year-old woman with leukemia.

Micah held his sister's hand as she donated her stem cells, just like his donor, a young soldier from Maryland, had done for him.

"That was the end of the cancer," said Micah's mother, Angie Farmer.

Micah and his donor have since become friends.

"When he came out to our house, I got to take him on a go-kart ride," Micah said.

"To have somebody in your family be able to give back, and my daughter to save somebody else, it is an amazing, an amazing feeling," Angie said.

And especially important; Stacey is biracial, meaning her recipient was very lucky to find Stacey as a match because there are fewer biracial donors on the registry.

"In his background, he has Asian, so he only had one match," Stacey said. "And it was very unlikely they would even find it. For multi-racial, it's about the same; you have low chances of even finding it especially because so many people don't put themselves on the registry."

It's called the Be the Match Registry. It has 8 million donors on the list, but only about 250,000 of them are bi-racial.

"The hope really of the unrelated donor program is that we can capture the world's diversity within the unrelated registry," said Dr. Laurence Cooper, professor of pediatrics at MD Anderson.

And save more lives. And the Farmer family knows firsthand what that means.

"You're not just saving a life, you're saving a family," Angie said.

If you have cancer and need a marrow match, the likelihood of finding one on the Be the Match Registry is between 60 and 88 percent, depending on your race and ethnicity. The more people of different backgrounds on the registry, the more lives will be saved.


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