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Importance of registering, maintaining donor information
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Tiffany Horvath

Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman

Tiffany Horvath About nine years ago when we were stationed in Oahu, Hawaii, I was at a health fair in Honolulu and joined the national bone marrow donor registry. I donated some blood, had my cheek swabbed, filled out some paperwork and promptly forgot about the whole thing. After all, my new husband and had just been stationed in the land of sun and sand, my job offered me a lot of time off, and we had just left a cold and frigid Alaskan winter, to our mutual delight.

My cat, on the other hand, was not so delighted. He spent 30 miserable days in a cement Hawaiian quarantine cell, where he was subjected to daily tours as the biggest cat they had. My 26-pound cat stands out in the crowd a bit. Heís not fat ó just big boned and fluffy. Extremely fluffy. But this column isnít about him. Iíll save his titillating and exciting feline life for another week.

To go back to the bone marrow registry, I have a confession to make: I was extremely bad about updating my information. As in, I completely forgot to do so. We moved from Hawaii to Kansas, where we acquired another, much skinnier cat and an infant. Then the new baby boy and I spent a year at my parentís house in Palmer while my husband went to Korea.

Upon his return, we moved into a new house and welcomed another new baby, this one a girl, and then my husband promptly left for a yearlong tour of duty in Iraq. Our oldest cat remained extremely fluffy and big boned, and the smaller cat still hasnít gained much weight, although that might be because the fluffy cat eats more than his fair share. The children, on the other hand, wonít stop growing, and I still forgot all about updating my info on the national bone marrow registry.

Until last week.

Friday afternoon, my grandmother in Palmer called me very concerned. She informed me someone had contacted her asking for information about me: how to contact me, my address, my phone number and more. My grandmother was extremely reluctant to divulge any of this, especially because she had no clue who was contacting her.

As it turns out, I had listed her as a contact on my initial information sheet those many years ago, and contact her they did.

After Saint Francis Medical Center out of Oahu managed to convince my grandmother they were not stalkers or illicit information seekers, they got my phone number out of her and called me.

It turns out I am a potential bone marrow match for a 20-year-old woman.

Within 24-hours, I received a much more detailed information packet in the mail from Hawaii and promptly fiJolled it out and sent it back. They then transferred my information to Seattle (the closest donor center to me) and I was next contacted by the Puget Sound Blood Center to set up an appointment to get retested at the Wasilla Blood Bank. If I am the best match for this young woman, I will head to Seattle to donate my bone marrow.           

Be the one to give Hope - Donate LifeAll this happened within six days.

I will go to Seattle if I am a match because Alaska does not have a National Marrow Donor Program Center. Several states lack these centers, Alaska being merely one of them. The national program actually pays for a donor to travel to the center to donate their marrow, covering all fees involved.

I donít know if I will be the best match for this young woman, whom I have never met. I donít even know if I will make the top five for her. All I know is the potential match exists, and someone at a bone marrow registry spent hours trying to track me down so I could be made aware of the situation.

Iíve since done some research about what donating marrow entails, and itís a pretty simple procedure for the donor, mainly because the anesthetic makes a donor completely unaware of anything happening: go to sleep, say ďbye-bye marrowĒ and wake up. Bone marrow will regenerate, and everything donated will be back inside a donor within several weeks. Youíre supposed to take it easy for a few days, or even a week, after the operation, and thatís about it for the donor.

Itís a pretty simple act to potentially save someoneís life.

But one thing I have noticed about the registry is they still desperately need volunteers. The chances of a volunteer being called to donate are exceedingly slim ó my mother has been on the list for over 20 years and has never been contacted. I think she might have had a bit of marrow-envy going on when I proudly told her Iíd been called as a potential match.

Although Alaska lacks a center to actually perform the procedure to remove the bone marrow, itís incredibly easy to get on the national registry: simply walk into the nearest blood bank and ask to be on the registry.

And a thought to anyone who moves frequently, like, oh say, someone in the Army. Remember to update your information when you move or have really understanding contacts who always know how to find you.