I found myself crying at my desk today. I read the story of 11-year-old Shannon Tavarez who was starring as Young Nala in Lion King on Broadway. She died recently of leukemia.
This is Shannon:
She was never able to get a bone marrow match to treat her leukemia. From the article I read I learned that not only is it hard for minorities in general to find a bone marrow match when needed, but it is especially hard for people of mixed race to find a match. Shannon was African-American and Hispanic. There just aren’t a large number of African-American or mixed race bone marrow donors out there.
Bone marrow donations and transplants are something unfamiliar to me so I checked out marrow.org where I found this picture with the caption “Be her leap from hospital room to ballroom” :
Seeing two little African-American girls who want to perform and are plagued so young by a disease shot a pain through my heart. Not that I only care about little Black girls and not anyone else, but my own little cousin went through Hodgkin's lymphoma, and as a Black woman with performance aspirations those two pictures resonated with me.
So after getting myself together (and deciding to post about this) I looked up what goes into a bone marrow donation. I think we’ve all seen that infamous episode of House where Forman sticks a HUGE needle into a screaming little boy to get a bone marrow sample for the boy’s brother. I could see how something like that could be a deterrent to even thinking about being a bone marrow donor. Reading online I was surprised to see that it isn’t as heinous of a procedure as the episode suggested, and as people may think.
First of all. It only takes a mouth swab to see if you are compatible. If you are found as a match, to actually give your marrow you are put under anesthesia and marrow is taken from the bone through a needle, or more commonly, the cells needed are filtered through circulating blood in a procedure similar to donating blood or having a blood test that requires multiple injections the week prior to the procedure.
Hopefully knowing that you don’t have to have a needle stuck into your bone, and if you do, you are put under anesthesia will persuade people to look into how they can contribute as a bone marrow donor, or at least be registered with marrow.org in the event that they are a match to someone in need of a bone marrow to save their lives. If you register with the site they will send you a kit to do a mouth swab and you send it back to them. It’s that easy to be part of the database.
I will be taking the time to read through all the guidelines and information before I make the commitment, and I encourage others to do so as well.
If I am found to be a match down the road, it would take time out of my life, and cause some time of discomfort, but am I selfish enough to not trade a few weeks of time and discomfort on my part for someone else’s life?