By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
EBCI tribal member Brandi Cooper has a rare bone marrow disease. Doctors have been unable to determine which of three diseases she has (Aplastic Anemia, Paroxysmal Nocturnal Hemoglobinuria (PNH), or myelodisplacia), but one thing they are sure of is that a bone marrow transplant would cure her….that much is certain.
Several members of the EBCI Health & Medical Division are organizing a blood marrow drive to help Cooper and others like her. The drive is planned for Wednesday, June 1 at the Cherokee Fire Department conference room. This is a screening drive for people to sign up for the Bone Marrow Registry.
“My illness was discovered during my pregnancy,” said Brandi. “After delivery, I was treated by local doctors until my illness became worse recently and I began treatment at UNC Cancer Hospital. During this treatment, it was discovered that I will need a bone marrow transplant and there are very few Native Americans in the registry and no matches for me.”
Her husband, Cameron, said, “I think this is something we have to push to other tribes as well. There are possibilities that a Cherokee could match a Navajo or a Choctaw. We’ve got to get the word out to other tribes.”
To join the registry, you will need to be between the ages of 18-60, meet the health guidelines and be willing to donate to anyone. Possible donors must meet height and weight criteria and cannot have any of the following conditions according to information from the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP):
* HIV or risk for HIV
* Hepatitis or risk for HIV
* Most forms of heart disease or cancer
* Diabetes requiring insulin or diabetes-related health issues
* Diseases that affect blood clotting or bleeding
* Recent back surgery or severe or ongoing back problems
* Autoimmune/neurological disorders such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or multiple sclerosis
* Being an order or marrow transplant recipient
* Significant obesity
* Current sleep apnea
Many donors are concerned that the marrow donation process is extremely painful. Information from NMDP states that the donation process is done under general or regional anesthesia so the process itself is painless. “Discomfort and side effects vary from person to person. Most marrow donors experience some side effects after donation. Common side effects of marrow donation include: lower back pain, fatigue, stiffness when walking, and bleeding at the collection site.”
For more information on the bone marrow drive, call 497-7450. To learn more about the entire process of bone marrow donation, visit BeTheMatch.org or call 1-800-MARROW-2.