Nearly 200 People Tested to See if They're a Stem Cell Match
Community turns out to join national bone marrow registry for a Stow native's wife whose leukemia returned.
Dominic J. Martucci, 35, of Akron doesn’t know Amelia Lincoln. It didn’t matter though, he joined the national bone marrow registry after his sister-in-law Ann Marie Patterson asked for help.
“Ann Marie’s a friend,” Martucci said. “Bottom line: She supported my family, so I’m here to support hers.”
Amelia, wife of Stow native James Patterson, had her leukemia relapse and is in need of bone marrow stem cells. In order to do that, she needs to find a match who’s willing to donate.
Saturday, 176 people came to James’ alma mater Stow-Munroe Falls High School and swabbed their cheeks and joined the Be The Match’s national bone marrow donor registry.
“Time is of the essence in Amelia’s case, but by coming together, we can shed light on the fact that it only takes one person to be a match. You just need that one person,” said Ann Marie Patterson, James’ older sister and class of 1998.
Amelia and James now live in Vermont, but that didn’t deter family and friends from trying to find a match in northeast Ohio.
Annal Vyas, James’ friend and fellow class of 1999, said planning began soon after hearing the news.
“I started talking with some others and thought we could do a bone marrow drive,” Vyas said. “It’s really great to see everyone come out and was an incredible group effort.”
Janice Patterson, James’ mom, said she enjoyed seeing the community rally around and support the family.
“I’m just very proud of them because I knew them when they were young,” she said.
The drive was more like a family reunion with people hugging, catching up, eager to kind words of support and in no hurry to leave.
In between hugs and warm greetings, Ann Marie explained how the registry worked.
To qualify, people must be between 18- and 60-years-old, meet overall health guidelines and pledge commitment to the registry. They then fill out the form and roll cotton swabs on each side of their mouths. The kits are sent and processed by Be the Match, which takes a couple of weeks.
Of everyone in the registry, only 10 percent of people will come up as a potential match and less than 1 percent will go on to donate, said Tonya Davis, account executive for Be the Match’s local office in Independence.
There are two types of bone marrow donations: actual bone marrow taken from the back hip bone and bone marrow stem cells separated from blood. Amelia needs the stem cells.
Being a stem cell bone marrow donor means getting a shot for five days to help proliferate stem cells. On the sixth day, you have your blood drawn and a machine extracts the stem cells and returns the blood in a process that takes about six hours. It’s not scary. If anything, it’s boring and you’re going to finish a good book, she said.
“We all want to be a hero. We all want to save the day. We can with this. We don’t have to lift a car, run into a burning building. We don’t have to rely on scientists. This is something we can do,” Ann Marie said.
“We all have Amelia’s in our lives, people we love in our lives who get sick, whether they’re young or told. This is one of those illnesses where we can be a hero. It just takes one match.”
Each case is different, Davis said. Sometimes the transplant doesn’t work, sometimes it can extend a person’s life while other times, it’s a cure.
But there’s still reason to be hopeful.
Stow resident Dawn Doolittle, 58, said spending the afternoon greeting people left her awestruck.
“I’m very happy about it. It just restores and reinforces the goodness in people,” Doolittle said. “When they left, they just went about their day like it was no big deal.”