Stem cell donor to hold registry drive

A recent stem cell donor and his wife are hosting a bone marrow donor registry drive.

 

Chris and Sarah DesOrmeaux are holding the drive in the Borealis room at Central Peninsula Hospital from noon-4 p.m. Saturday.

The couple is putting on the drive in honor of 2-year-old Linzi Shoemaker who was diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma, a rare pediatric cancer, in June.

Linzi will be receiving a stem cell donation in December at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Ore., her mother, Jen Shoemaker, said. The family is currently in Anchorage while Linzi undergoes chemotherapy treatments. Jen, who knows Chris through her job at CPH, said she and her family will try to make the drive to sign up to donate.

“In my situation, I feel like I can’t do a lot for my daughter, but this is something that I know I’m helping someone else,” Jen said. “In a way I’m helping Linizi even though it’s not directly. ... (Donating is) a big deal. It really saves a (person’s) life.”

Chris registered online as a donor through Be The Match Registry, the National Marrow Donor Program, about three years ago. After signing up, the program sent him a mouth swab packet, which he sent back to be tested for three components of donor-recipient compatibility.

Chris said joining the registry is not committing to donating. If the program requests further testing to determine the best possible match, declining is always an option.

In February, he was asked if he would like to complete further testing to see if he was a match for a man diagnosed with multiple melanoma.

Results determined Chris was the man’s best possible donor match. Chris was originally asked to donate bone marrow — a painful process that requires donors to be put under anesthesia and stuck with needles in the ilium bones in the hips. The recovery time for donating marrow is about six weeks.

However, based on the recipient’s health status, doctors opted for a peripheral blood stem cell donation instead. The process is still painful as it requires increasing the number of stem cells in the bloodstream, but it carries less risk for the donor and doctors are able to recognize sooner if the recipient’s body has accepted the donation.

Chris made his donation in May at the Puget Sound Blood Center in Seattle. While there, he and his wife decided they wanted to host a drive at on the central peninsula this summer.

The blood center sent the DesOrmeauxs 100 swab kits and questionnaires to register donors. On Wednesday, the DesOrmeauxs received training over the phone to be able to answer most questions potential donors might ask at the drive.

Chris it should only take about 10 minutes to join the registry. If the DesOrmeauxs run out of swab kits, interested potential donors can sign up online and will receive a swab kit in the mail.

Ideal donors are between the ages of 18 and 44 and have no drug use history. People over 60 and those diagnosed with certain diseases listed on the program’s website, bethematch.org, cannot join the registry. Pregnant women can register, but cannot donate when pregnant.

According to Be The Match Registry, about one in 540 members of the national registry go on to donate marrow or blood stem cells.

“There are donation funds and other fundraisers that are being held for the family,” Chris said in an email. “This event is a different way that people can show support for Linzi’s fight.”

Kaylee Osowski can be reached at kaylee.osowski@peninsulaclarion.com.

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