ABC13 launches Month to Match drive to encourage bone marrow donations


Right now, 9 million people are on the registry, but that's not enough. Every year, some 10,000 people need stem cell transplants, and most don't have family members who are matches.

We have the story of Gary Lassin, a donor whose bone marrow matched two cancer patients. One died, but we talked to the woman he did save, and ended up dancing at her wedding.

Lassin has been friends with Sheryl Sowa for 17 years. She had leukemia, and his bone marrow match saved her life.

"You guys are so special to me," she told Lassin via a Skype conversation.

"It's a lifetime of memories I have that are so great, seeing Sheryl and her husband," Lassin said.

Sowa invited Lassin and his wife Arlene to Detroit to attend her wedding and sit with her family. The poem and angel she gave him still sits next to her wedding photo at his home.

"Without you she wouldn't have been there for me to marry," Sheryl's husband, Joe Sowa, told Lassin.

In 2005 and 2006, we conducted the first citywide Be the Match drive, and Sowa flew to Houston from Detroit to share what Lassin's match meant to her life.

Six people from our drives have been matches. One was KTRK Web Manager Randy Klein, and the experience was personal for him. His little girl Ava was diagosed with brain cancer at 2. She is now in kindergarten. And Klein's match saved a man's life last December.

How can you save a life? All it takes is a Q-tip test and you can do at home. Open the packet with four swabs and swab your cheek for 10 seconds. Use one swab for the upper and lower cheek on both sides. Put them in the package and mail it.

Sheryl and Lassin now share the same blood type, a bond between their families and the feeling that each got the most from that match made 17 years ago.

"The number of people that this has touched has just been phenomenal, and we'll continue to be blessed by this forever," Lassin said.

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