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Will you ‘Be the Match’?

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Will you ‘Be the Match’? photo 1

Signing up for the marrow registry

We first heard Katie Meacham’s story back in December. Her sister, Lori Rosen, wrote of how in spring of 2008, one week after her 25th birthday, Katie was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and today she is searching for a match.

Doctors have said her best chance at long-term recovery and survival is for her to undergo an Allogeneic Stem Cell Transplant, meaning now she needs blood stem cells from a matching donor since her own blood stem cells didn’t keep the cancer away.

On March 4, nearly 200 Jewish young professionals came together for “Be the Match” bar night at Enclave Night Club for a marrow registry drive. The event—sponsored by Oy!Chicago, JUF’s Young Leadership Division, TIP Young Professional Groups, Chicago Center for Jewish Genetic Disorders, Birthright Israel NEXT, and Be The Match—resulted in 136 people signing up for the registry.

“I can't thank you enough for not only taking the time to come out but also for your support of my sister and family,” said Lori. “I told Katie all about the drive and she was so grateful to hear all the people that were there supporting her and all the others in need of a transplant.”

Among the volunteers at the event was Justin Brown, 34, who knows firsthand what it’s like to Be the Match.

Justin first signed up for the marrow registry about four years ago when a high school friend needed a transplant. About a year later he got a call that he had potentially matched with a 10-year-old boy in Italy. Further testing determined it was a perfect match.

Will you ‘Be the Match’? photo 2

A note and a picture from the boy Justin saved

“[The procedure I had was] very non-invasive,” Justin said. “It’s pretty much like giving blood, but it takes a little longer.” There are two methods of donation: peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC), which Justin had, and marrow. He said the procedure was done within several hours and he was back at work the next day. He later received a deeply moving letter from the young boy and though he’ll never know his name, Justin was able to connect with the boy whose life he saved.

“My parents say that you with the physicians have provided to our family the willingness to look at the future…,” the boy wrote. “Your stem cells are a real bomb, they immediately began to work…Thanks to you I will be able to live again, to play football with my friends, to attend again school.”

“I would do it again without hesitation,” Justin said. “It’s hard to believe that you actually saved someone’s life and gave them an opportunity to live, especially someone so young. It’s probably the most important thing I’ll ever do aside from having children of my own.”

Of the 14 million people currently registered to donate, not a single one is a match for Katie or the 6,000 others who are looking for a match every day. Registering involves answering a brief set of medical history questions, then swabbing your cheek with special Q-tips—it is free and painless. To register or to learn more about Be the Match, visit BeTheMatch.org.

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