Last February, 59-year-old Ellen Cole was attending her youngest daughter’s college play when she fainted during intermission. That’s when doctors discovered a blood disease so rare that doctors don’t even have a name for it — and so dangerous that every day is a race against time to save her life. A bone marrow transplant is Ellen’s only chance for survival.
Ellen is a mother, wife, poet, actress and teaching artist. Among family and friends, Ellen is known for her passion for the arts and her desire to evoke the same enthusiasm in others.
And every 5 minutes, someone like Ellen is diagnosed with a blood disease. Every 10 minutes, someone dies. By signing up as a bone marrow donor, you might be the one to save a life like hers.
Ellen’s father and sister died after developing similar conditions. That’s why Ellen has turned to Deutsche Knochenmarkspenderdatei (“German Bone Marrow Donor Center” in English, or DKMS for short) to find a match. DKMS have identified a few potential matches, but there’s no guarantee that one of these donors will be her lifesaver. Additional testing will determine this.
One Family’s Struggle Leads to Hope for Others
Rather than merely standing by in wait-and-see mode, Ellen’s oldest daughter, Becky, drew upon the family’s experiences thus far and recently organized a bone marrow donation awareness drive. Many donors showed up in hopes of matching a patient in need, but there is still a need for more bone marrow donors. You can be part of a miracle, register on-line with DKMS here.
“My mom is lucky enough that she has already found a few potential matches. I’m just so grateful that those people, whoever they are, decided to become bone marrow donors,” says Becky. “If one person registers or donates money, then that’s one step closer to a transplant for someone who would die without one. Right now, only three out of 10 patients get the bone marrow transplants they need. That number should be higher.”
Katharina Harf, executive vice president of DKMS Americas, echoes the sentiment. “Every day, thousands of patients search for a life-saving bone marrow donor who can make their transplants possible, but less than half of them will find the people who could save their lives,” she says. “This family has been through a lot. By adding more donors to the national registry, we can give more hope to them and the thousands of other families who are going through the same thing.”
Become a bone marrow donor
Registering to become a bone marrow donor entails more than a cheek swab; it is a commitment to help save a life. You must be in good general health and between the ages of 18 and 55. When you register with DKMS, you will be listed on the national Be the Match registry and can be found as a donor match for any patient who needs a bone marrow transplant.
As a match, you may be asked to donate in one of two possible ways:
- Peripheral blood stem cell collection — A medication increases the number of your blood stem cells, which are then collected directly from the bloodstream (in a procedure called apheresis); or
- Bone marrow donation — the stem cells are collected directly from the pelvic bone.
Learn more about the bone marrow donation process here.
DKMS began in Germany with the mission of one man. In 1990, Peter Harf was desperate to find a donor for his wife, Mechtild, who was diagnosed with acute leukemia. The search seemed hopeless because, at the time, only 3,000 unrelated donors were available in Germany. He worked tirelessly, gathering friends, family and volunteers to organize donor drives, successfully recruiting more than 65,000 donors in one year.
Peter and his wife’s physician, Dr. Gerhard Ehninger, founded DKMS officially in 1991 with a simple goal: To build a major bone marrow donor center to help leukemia patients worldwide find their life-saving matches. Today, DKMS is the largest bone marrow donor center in the world, with nearly 2 million registered donors. Since its founding, DKMS has facilitated more than 17,000 transplants.
In 2004, the organization opened an office in New York City to diversify its donor pool by registering more bone marrow donors in the U.S. Indeed, since 2006, DKMS has registered more than 70,000 American donors, which has allowed more than 80 patients to receive a life-saving transplant.
As a non-profit organization, DKMS relies on the generosity of individuals to help finance the $65 cost
DKMS pays to tissue-type each bone marrow donor who registers. A full 100 percent of your donation will be used to register donors and add them on the national Be the Match registry.
Visit DKMS online to learn how to donate bone marrow, money or time today!