For some valley residents, Wednesday’s bone marrow donor registry drive at Colorado Mountain College offers a glimmer of hope in an otherwise dark situation.
Kristin Chaffee, who has lived in the area since 1976, hopes the event will be another chance for her mother to find a match.
Chaffee’s mother, who asked not to be identified by name, was diagnosed with acute leukemia on Feb. 24, when her blood work came back from a previous hospitalization due to a bad case of pneumonia. She was transported to University Hospital in Denver by ambulance the same day. According to Chaffee, her mother had surgery in the fall of 2013 and showed no signs of cancer then.
“Somewhere between the end of last year and now, this just popped out of nowhere,” she observed. “It comes on quickly and it spreads quickly. That’s why it’s so important that we do something as soon as possible.”
To make matters worse, Chaffee has recently undergone surgery, and is unable to make the trip to Denver or serve as a potential donor herself.
“I’m doing whatever I can to help her from this bed where I’m sitting right now,” she said over the phone. “They are researching a few different options right now, but basically they have said that she needs the bone marrow transplant. The more people that come out and donate the better chance there is of finding a match.”
According to Chaffee, there are currently no matches on the donor registry.
Estimates of how likely an individual patient is to find a donor vary considerably, but a big registration turnout certainly improves the chances.
“I don’t know what else I can do for her except to get the word out for people to please donate,” Chaffee said. “Even if they don’t find a match for her, they could find a match for someone else and this could help save someone else’s life. It’s good all around for people to donate.”
The drive runs from noon to 3 p.m. March 19 at CMC’s Spring Valley Campus. Registration is about a 10-minute process and involves a consent form, health history, and a simple, painless cheek swab for testing.
The actual donation process is more intensive, but only about one in 500 registrations end up matching a patient in need. Those that do can still opt out. Both registration and donation are free for anyone between the ages of 18 and 44 who is willing to donate to any patient and meets some basic health guidelines.