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Misconceptions Keep Bone Marrow Registry from Attracting Diverse Donor Pool

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TWC News: Misconceptions Keep Bone Marrow Registry from Attracting Diverse Donor Pool
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In the second part of our series on the need for bone marrow donors, NY1's Erin Billups takes a look at what goes into donating bone marrow and some of the lingering misconceptions.

Following the death of their colleague, Marlon Layne, members of the marketing firm Ogilvy & Mather started a campaign to get the word out about the prevalence of blood cancers and the need for more diversity within the donor pool.

Over the past three years they've raised nearly $42,000 for the cause and signed up around 160 new donors to the Be the Match Registry.

"I can’t change the past but I can ensure that in the future nobody else like Marlon has to be waiting for a marrow registrant from somebody who’s of their same race," says Ogilvy & Mather Marketing Analytics Associate Director Omari Jinaki.

Omari Jinaki says he has noticed a level of hesitancy to participate within the black community, though.

"That is rooted, clearly, in hundreds of years of history of being misguided and misrepresented and underrepresented by the systems that are supposed to protect us," Jinaki says.

There's also a lack of awareness of the need within the Latino and Asian communities, and lingering misconceptions the donation process.

Many believe it's painful, with significant recovery time.

"The process has changed in the way one donates bone marrow. Seventy-five percent of the time, it's just like a blood donation," says Icla Da Silva Foundation President Airam Da Silva.

Depending on the recipient's need, most can now donate via a peripheral blood stem cell, or PBSC.

For five days before donation, the donor is injected with filgrastim, which moves more blood-forming cells out of the marrow into the blood stream.

The drug can cause head or joint aches and fatigue.

"On the fifth day, the donor goes to the blood bank or to the hospital. They donate blood from one arm, the blood goes through a apheresis machine where it separates the bone marrow cells, and the rest of the blood goes back on the other arm," says Da Silva.

You can also donate through a surgical procedure, with general or regional anesthesia.

Doctors use hollow needles to draw liquid marrow from the back of the pelvic bone.

Donors are usually sent home the same or the following day, and feel some soreness for around a week after the procedure.

"Once a patient is suffering from a disease that only a bone marrow transplant can save, the treatment can be the only cure for the patient," Da Silva says.

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