CHARLOTTE – Changing someone’s life forever starts with a simple swab of your cheek. Every 27 seconds around the world, someone is diagnosed with a form of blood cancer. Here in the US, nearly every 3 minutes someone receives a diagnosis that changes their life forever. More than 170,000 Americans each year are diagnosed with a form of blood cancer, the second most common cause of death among all cancer types. Helping save lives from this devastating form of cancer is DKMS.
A German family founded DKMS in a fight to save Mechtild Harf, who had received the news that the only treatment for her leukemia was a blood stem cell transplant. Unfortunately, she had no matching family members. In Germany, only 3000 potential donors were on the registry, and no one was a match. Her family knew they needed to bring awareness to and increase her survival chances by adding unrelated donors to the registry. In one year’s time, her family and friends were able to increase the registry by 68,000 potential donors; unfortunately, none of them was a match, and Mechtild Harf passed before her match was found. Her final wish was for her family to continue the mission to bring hope to families and patients. Peter, her husband, and daughter, Katharina, are very involved at DKMS and serve instrumental roles in the mission. Their personal passion for the organization shows through their dedication to creating awareness of how important it is to register to give someone a second chance at life.
DKMS is the global leader in the fight to eliminate blood cancer and other blood disorders and the world’s largest blood stem cell and bone marrow donor center. Their mission is to bring awareness, support patients, inspire potential lifesavers, raise funds to support new donor registration, and lead research, development, and access to transplantation initiatives across the world. With its most recent expansion office in the Charlotte area, it hopes to reach even more people across the US as potential matches.
Blood cancer and blood disorders affect every demographic across the world, and bringing awareness to the community on how they can help save a life increases each patient’s second chance at life incredibly. It is important to remember that when it comes to giving the gift of stem cells, diversity matters. Our community expands the demographics to give children like Kimora (12 years old) and Kylie (8 years old), who are sisters battling sickle cell disease, a better chance, and one donor would be able to save them both. Jasmine Thompson, a North Carolina donor advocates, “If you’re contemplating registering, just do it. It is so rewarding when you realize that someone was in pain, someone was suffering, and you can help. You would be surprised about how much you get out of that experience. I believe that we are here to be helpers of one another.“
A chance to change a life forever starts with a simple swab of the cheek. All patients need a genetic match, and with over 17,000 tissue types, it can occur in millions of combinations. A potential donor would need to match ten characteristics of the patient. The probability that two people match is one in 20,000 to one in 3 million.
If you are between the ages of 18 and 55 years old, in good health, willing to donate to ANY patient, not already registered, living permanently in the US, and at least 4’10” and 105 lbs, you could give someone a second chance at life. Once registered with a patient the DKMS team reaches out to the donor to start the next steps. It always starts with a conversation about the process, and if the donor is still committed to becoming a potential lifesaver. Then DKMS will schedule appointments and cover all expenses including travel and loss of work time along with setting up all medical appointments and collection center appointments.
Sandy Barnett, Mint Hill resident and Head of Community Engagement & Development for the US, encourages everyone to consider engaging with the mission of DKMS. “For any of us who have lost a family member to cancer, it is vital that we understand how a life-saving transplant can change the course of someone’s life,” she says. “The mission to delete blood cancer and other blood disorders is a team effort, and we invite individuals, communities, and companies to reach out and learn how they can be a part.” For more information, visit dksm.org or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.