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MCAS Yuma conducts bone marrow drive for leukemia patient
In an effort to assist a Yuma Marine in his search for a bone marrow match, a Department of Defense Bone Marrow Donor Registration drive was held Friday at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, with fellow Marines, sailors, civilians and troops from allied nations all signing up.
According to the for MAWTS-1 squadron's Family Readiness Officer Sandra Rookey, the bone marrow drive was held for 35-year-old Gunnery Sgt. Shane Lamont, who works as a low altitude air defense gunner with Marine Aviation and Weapons Tactics Squadron-1.
“We are trying to increase the number of potential donors in the National Registry. The more people in the registry, the better the chance of finding a match for Lamont, and others who are waiting on the list,” Rookey said. “We are trying to do everything we can do to get our Marine healthy again. We have 4,000 packets out here and we would love to see them all used today.”
Rookey said Lamont was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in May shortly after the birth of his daughter. She explained that he hadn't been feeling well for months, but decided to wait until his daughter was born before checking into his own health.
“After the birth of his daughter he saw the flight surgeon, who determined he actually had leukemia,” Rookey said. “He was quickly transferred to San Diego to begin chemotherapy. The leukemia is a very aggressive cancer of the blood and bone marrow, and it progresses very quickly, so he needed to begin treatment right away.”
In addition, Lamont also has an FLT3 mutation, which Rookey said makes his disease more resistant to chemotherapy treatment — meaning he will need to find a matching bone marrow donor in order to be healthy again.
“(The FLT3 mutation) causes his leukemia to be more chemo resistant, and it will continue to mutate until he has the bone marrow transplant to eliminate the leukemia cells from his body,” Rookey said. “The next step is for him to find a bone marrow donor.”
Sgt. Michael Grabowsky, who knows Lamont personally and has been deployed with him, said he was shocked when he found out what his fellow Marine was going through. He explained that Lamont's wife told the entire squadron he had cancer about two weeks ago during one of their formations.
“I was struck pretty hard,” Grabowsky said. “It hurts to see someone you have been through so much with get hit with something like this.”
Grabowsky said he respects Lamont tremendously and called him a nice guy and a “stand-up” Marine.
“When it came to his Marines, he always took care of them and put them first,” Grabowsky said.
Flight Lt. Nick Geary of the Royal Air Force, who works in the same office as Lamont at the air station, also signed up for the registry, calling Lamont a friend and a colleague.
“Hopefully a match will be found,” Geary said. “If not for him, hopefully someone else will benefit from this.”
The registration drive was held in the air station's exchange building from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Rookey was handing out registration packets to everyone she could. She explained that the registration process is noninvasive and takes only a short time to fill out, consisting of a Department of Defense consent form and four oral swabs.
Capt. Staci Reidinger, director of the Public Affair's Office at MCAS Yuma, said in all 822 people filled out packets, essentially signing up for both the DOD and National Registry for bone marrow donations.
After a sample is given, Rookey said it is sent to be tested to determine the donor's human leukocyte antigen type. That coded information is then placed on the national registry, where it will stay until the individual's 61st birthday.
Rookey explained that if a donor and patient are found to be a preliminary match, more compatibility testing is conducted to determine whether the donor's DNA is a close enough match and whether the donor is clear of any infectious diseases, which would make the patient sicker.
When a match is found, they are then brought to a hospital in Washington, D.C., where the marrow will be extracted from the back of the donor's pelvic bone using a special needle and syringe while the donor is under anesthesia.
Rookey said after the procedure, the donor typically will spend a night in the hospital and can resume work activities after a few days.
For more details about the Department of Defense Marrow Donor Program, please visit www.dodmarrow.org or call 1-800-MARROW-3. More information about the National Marrow Donor Program can be found at www. marrow.org/Home.aspx or by calling 1-800-MARROW2 or 1-800-627-7692.
James Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6854. Find him on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/YSJamesGilbert or on Twitter @YSJamesGilbert.
Myths and facts about bone marrow donations
MYTH: All bone marrow donations involve surgery.
FACT: The majority of donations do not involve surgery. Today, the patient's doctor most often requests a peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donation, which is non-surgical.
The second way of donating is marrow donation, which is a surgical procedure.
In each case, donors typically go home the same day they donate.
MYTH: Donating is painful and involves a long recovery.
FACT: There can be uncomfortable but short-lived side effects of donating PBSC. Due to taking a drug called filgrastim for five days leading up to donation, PBSC donors may have headaches, joint or muscle aches, or fatigue. PBSC donors are typically back to their normal routine in one to two days. Those donating marrow receive general or regional anesthesia, so they feel no pain during donation. Marrow donors can expect to feel some soreness in their lower back for one to two weeks afterward. Most marrow donors are back to their normal activities in two to seven days.
MYTH: Donating is dangerous and weakens the donor.
FACT: Though no medical procedure is without risk, there are rarely any long-term side effects.Because only five percent or less of a donor's marrow is needed to save the patient's life, the donor's immune system stays strong and the cells replace themselves within four to six weeks.
Information from the Bone Marrow Donor Program. For more information, visit www.marrow.org.