The Fight of Their Life - Help Those with Blood Diseases

MyHealthy Decisions

April 5, 2016

StFB_IMG_1459437280608.jpgephanie Talaia-Murray was diagnosed with leukemia in the fall of last year. The 21-year-old geology major at Hamilton College in Clinton, NY, was stunned by the news from her doctor at Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown.

“I had some facial lesions that prompted me to make an appointment to get checked out,” recalls Talaia-Murray.  “It was during my treatment for the skin problem that a blood test showed my white blood cell count was quite low. But I never expected a leukemia diagnosis. There’s no family history and I felt fine.”

Every four minutes someone is diagnosed with a blood cancer like leukemia. Most patients need a marrow or stem cell transplant to survive. That’s how Stephanie and her family learned about Be The Match Registry®, which is operated by the National Marrow Donor Program® (NMDP) and provides doctors with access to nearly 24.5 million possible donors.

Stephanie’s experience has prompted friends of the family to bring Be The Match to the Bassett Clinic on River St. in Cooperstown April 13 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. People can learn more about how to become a donor and put their name on the registry.

“No one in my family was a match,” says Talaia-Murray. “However, through the registry my doctor was able to locate a perfect match. All I know is that she is a 24 year old nurse.” That small amount of information is meaningful to Talaia-Murray and her family because Stephanie’s mom is a nurse educator in the intensive care unit at Bassett.

As a result of Bassett Medical Center’s relationship with University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), Stephanie received her chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant there in February and March of this year, and she continues to travel to URMC for follow up each week. Full recovery from the effects of treatment can take a year or more.

In the meantime, she hopes to eventually meet her stem cell donor and is and helping to raise awareness of the need for marrow/stem cell donors. The goal of the Be the Match drive April 13 at Bassett is to educate people about the need for donors and add as many qualifying individuals as possible to the Be The Match Registry®.

  • A potential marrow/stem cell donor needs to be 18 to 44 years of age
  • In general good health
  • Willing to donate to any person in need
  • The entire process to be added to the registry takes only 10 minutes

 “Before my diagnosis, I never knew much about this kind of donation and how many people need stem cells or marrow because they’re battling blood cancer,” says Talaia-Murray. “The process is fairly simple and I’ve learned that in some states and other countries, everyone is automatically an organ donor unless they opt out.”  Given the need and shortage of donors of all kinds, she thinks it’s something New York State should give more consideration to.

It’s quite fitting that Bassett organize a Be The Match drive to locate potential marrow donors for people fighting blood diseases. The first bone marrow transplant in history occurred at The Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital (now doing business as Bassett Medical Center) in the 1950s. Bassett physicians Dr. Joseph W. Ferrebee, Dr. E. Donnall Thomas, Dr. Theodore Peters, Jr., and Dr. David A. Blumenstock transfused the marrow from a healthy twin to a twin with leukemia in 1956. In 1990, Dr. E. Donnall Thomas received the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his pioneering transplantation work, which led to the successful treatment of leukemia.

About Be the Match

For the thousands of people diagnosed every year with life-threatening blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma, a cure exists. Over the past 25 years Be The Match ®, operated by the National Marrow Donor Program ®  (NMDP), has managed the largest and most diverse marrow registry in the world. We work every day to save lives through transplant. Visit www.bethematch.org to learn more.

About Bassett Healthcare Network

Bassett Healthcare Network is an integrated health system that provides care and services to people living in a 5,600 square mile region in upstate New York. The organization includes six corporately affiliated hospitals, over two dozen community-based health centers, 20 school-based health centers, two skilled nursing facilities, and other health partners in related fields. Bassett Medical Center, the foundation of the network, is a 180-bed acute care inpatient teaching hospital located in Cooperstown, NY. To learn more about services available throughout the Bassett Healthcare Network, visit www.bassett.org. Follow Bassett on Facebook and Twitter at facebook.com/Bassett.Network and twitter.com/BassettNetwork.

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