*From the outside looking in, my daughter Kamryn (Kami) Dukes is your typical vivacious 11-year old. She’s a straight-A student, plays the piano and the guitar, loves to sing and has aspirations of becoming an actress when she grows up.
Aspirations that I pray she’ll have the option to fulfill. But Kami is also fighting a painful and life-threatening battle: sickle cell anemia. A diagnosis that no parent wants to hear. A disease that no child should have to endure.
Sickle cell anemia affects between 70,000 and 100,000 people in the United States alone. It is one of the most commonly inherited blood disorders, and is most prevalent among African Americans and Hispanics. The disease causes normal red blood cells to lose oxygen and collapse into sickle shapes. In addition to causing severe pain, sickle cell disease can also damage lungs, brain, kidneys and other organs. Complications range from fatigue to more severe symptoms such as stroke, heart attack and infections.
I would do anything to save my child’s life. But a marrow transplant is her only cure. A patient’s best chance of a match is from a sibling – but even that isn’t a guarantee. And with Kami being an only child, for us, it’s not an option.
Seventy percent of patients do not have a fully matched donor in their family, so they depend on Be The Match®, the world’s leading nonprofit organization focused on saving lives through marrow and umbilical cord blood transplantation, to find a donor who could be their cure.
Finding a match isn’t easy.
Since our search for a donor began, it’s been a heartbreaking one. Initially, Kami had five potential matches. Five. But all five were either unable or unwilling to donate.
Matching the tissue types of patients to donors is a complex process – far more complex than matching blood types. Because tissue types used in matching are inherited, patients are most likely to match someone who shares their ethnic background. While the Be The Match Registry® is the world’s largest and most diverse donor registry, African American and black donors make up only 5 percent of all donors on the registry.
We need your help.
Joining the Be The Match Registry is the first step in helping improve the odds of patients – including my daughter – finding a marrow donor. African American and black donors between the ages of 18-35 are especially needed. The younger the person is, the healthier their marrow likely is and the higher chances of transplant success. A simple cheek swab is all it takes to join the registry. Once matched, the donation process is much less complicated – and painful – than many people think. In fact, most donors are back to their normal routines in one to seven days and feel completely recovered within two weeks. A small price to pay for saving someone’s life.
As a mother of a child fighting a life-threatening illness, “waiting patiently” isn’t an option. I must find her a donor. Her life is at stake. Could you be that match? Please visit www.join4Kami.org to start the process and potentially save my child’s life – or the life of one of the thousands of other patients in need of a transplant.