It is a saying that is becoming cliche if it hasn't already. But still it's true. It takes a village. And not only to raise a child, but sometimes, to save a life.
On June 5, there will be a blood/marrow donor drive at Jackson Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church in hopes of finding a match for Dana Thomas, a 26-year-old former Long Islander with leukemia. She is not alone in her struggle. Thousands suffer from fatal blood diseases, sometimes dying while waiting for a bone marrow transplant that may have saved their lives. Thirty-thousand Americans a year are diagnosed with diseases that require a bone marrow transplant as a treatment, according to National Marrow Donor Program spokesperson Helen Ng. Thousands more need blood when they find themselves in a hospital with life threatening injuries.
In Dana's case, her family is in a desperate search to find donors of African-American descent since patients are most likely to find a match within their own race or ethnic group. Still, hospitals and blood centers are always looking for blood donors of all races and ethnicities to treat these patients. I urge anyone who is physically capable to give blood and to consent to being a bone marrow donor.
Monetary donations to medical research organizations and patient advocacy groups may not be possible for those of us who struggle to pay our bills. But giving blood is an act of kindness that almost all of us can afford. And even if you have the money to donate to charities and research foundations, giving blood is a hands-on way of helping someone in need.
Leukemia patients account for a majority of the bone marrow transplants done in the country. Leukemia is not an inherited disease and it can strike anyone at any time. Doctors and scientists do not know where the disease comes from and a fool-proof cure is not available. For many with the disease the best or only chance of recovery is through a bone marrow transplant. But only 30 percent of patients find matches within their own families. Ng said, the rest are dependent on the generosity of complete strangers who understand the need for donors.
And because of the odds of finding that perfect match, it takes a lot of strangers to save just one life. The more people who register as donors, the better the chances are for survival for all patients afflicted with leukemia or other fatal blood diseases.
It has been said that the rewards of giving far surpass the rewards of receiving. Be selfish enough to want to reap the emotional and spiritual rewards of doing something for someone else. All it takes to register as a marrow donor is a blood test and it doesn't take much more to donate blood.
The blood/ marrow donor drive held in Dana Thomas' honor will be hosted on Saturday, June 5 at Jackson Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church, 60 Peninsula Blvd. in Hempstead from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
If you want to volunteer but are unable to attend, or for more information, contact Long Island Blood Services at 927-5041, the New York Blood Center at 212-570-3000 or the family of Dana Thomas at 997-5352 or 223-6943.
Dana's family also urges any organization that might be interested in sponsoring its own blood/marrow donor drive to call 997-5352 or 223-6943 for more information.
For more information on bone marrow donation, you may also call the National Marrow Donor Program at 1-800-MARROW-2 or visit their website at www.marrow.org.