Rena Waterman was just a teenager when she died from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma two years ago. A bone marrow transplant might have saved her life.
"She was Miss Tonto Apache, and was into barrel racing," said Tonto Apache Vice-Chair Nathaniel Campbell. "The doctors tried to find a bone marrow donor for her, but a match could not be found.
Waterman's friends and family want to ensure that another life is not lost due to the lack of bone marrow donors.
April 3, the Tonto Apaches will co-sponsor a bone marrow drive in conjunction with United Blood Services spring blood drive.
The blood drive, at its new location, will be held from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the church's youth hall.
"We're looking for lots of donors and volunteers," said local coordinator Leslie Alexander. "We want to make this the best drive yet."
Donors must bring with them identification, and should drink plenty of water prior to donating. "Water helps keep the system hydrated, and if you don't drink enough water, your blood tends to run more slowly," she said.
Donors should be 17 years of age or older and weigh at least 110 pounds. They must not have made a blood donation in the past eight weeks or be taking antibiotics or insulin.
People cannot donate blood if they've ever used needles to take drugs, had hepatitis after the age of 11, tested positive for hepatitis B or C, or tested positive for HIV.
Testing for bone marrow donations is covered by the federal government, but only for minority groups, Alexander said.
That's where the Tonto Apaches come in, Campbell said. The tribe will cover the costs of bone marrow testing for anyone who registers.
"There's no limit to how many we'll pay for," he said. "We want to do this in memory of Rena."
To become a donor, participants start by giving a small sample of blood. Once tested, the person's name is added to the international bone marrow register. Further testing is then required if an initial match is found.
"There's only a 30-percent chance of finding a match among family members," Alexander said. "That means the other 70 percent comes from nonrelatives. That's why it's so important for people to join the registry."
To find out more information about the blood or bone marrow drive, contact Alexander at 476-3624. Further details about bone marrow donations can be found at www.marrow.org.
Common questions about bone marrow donation
Q: How do I sign up to be a volunteer marrow donor?
A: To become a volunteer marrow donor, you must be between the ages of 18 and 60 and in general good health. A simple blood test administered through an authorized NMDP donor center is required to enter your tissue type onto the National Registry.
Q: If there is not an NMDP donor center in my area, how can I join the NMDP Registry?
A: To arrange to be tested, call the NMDP donor center nearest you. The donor center may have a satellite office near you or a drive coming up in your area. Also, some donor centers will mail out blood test kits to donors after consent forms are filled out and returned to the donor center.
Q: Will it cost me anything to be a donor?
A: The cost for the HLA tissue typing test ranges from $35 to $90, depending on the donor center, the level of testing performed and the laboratory that completes the test. However, there are alternative methods for being tested. Some donor centers will ask for whole blood or blood component donations in exchange for the cost of the testing. There also may be funding available, an upcoming drive or a waiting list through the donor center. Please contact your local donor center for further information.
Q: What is the donation process?
A: During the donation process, the marrow is removed with a surgical needle from the back of the pelvic bone. All donors are given either a general or regional anesthesia. Generally, four to eight tiny incisions are made in the pelvic area. These incisions are so small that stitches are not necessary. Typically, the donation procedure lasts between 45 to 90 minutes. Marrow is constantly regenerating itself so the donor's system completely replaces the donated marrow within several weeks.
Q: What are the risks for the donor?
A: As with any surgical procedure, there is a minimal amount of risk with marrow collection. Serious complications are rare but could include anesthesia reactions, infection, transfusion reactions, or injuries at the needle insertion sites. The NMDP and its centers take all necessary precautions to ensure the safety and well-being of the donor. A number of health questions are asked when individuals join the NMDP Registry to be sure the volunteers are in good general health. Before actually becoming a donor, a volunteer will receive a thorough physical examination.
Q: Does marrow donation hurt?
A: Following the procedure, donors can expect to feel some soreness in the lower back for a few days or longer.
Q: How do I become a donor if I live outside the United States?
A: The NMDP has several international donor centers as well as cooperative registries throughout the world. Please see our list of Cooperative registries.
Q: Can I get tested for a specific patient (i.e. friend or family member)?
A: The NMDP maintains a Registry of unrelated potential donors willing to help any patient that they might match. A person can be tested through the NMDP and ask for a copy of their test results at the time of testing If they are interested in being tested to help anyone in addition to their interest in a specific person, such as a friend or family member. If you are interested in getting tested for only a specific friend or family member, you will need to have the blood test done privately. For private testing, contact a major university in your area or the patient's transplant physician.
Q: I've already been tested for a family member and would like my results added to the NMDP Registry. How can I do this?
A: If you have already been HLA tissue typed and wish to join the registry, attain a copy of your HLA tissue typing and contact the NMDP donor center in your area for information on joining the Registry. The donor center will have you fill out some health history forms and a consent form. The donor center will then place your results into the Registry so you will be cross referenced for any patient searching the NMDP Registry for a bone marrow donor.
Q: How can I verify that I am on the Registry?
A: Each year, the NMDP and its network of donor centers mails out the annual The Marrow Messenger newsletter to all potential volunteers registered through the program. If you have received the newsletter, you are on the NMDP Registry.