Hello friends, and happy September! I hope it’s begun well for you.
I have two blog posts for you today. The first is my debut post with The History Girls. My essay, “Ahistorical Fiction”, is up on our group blog now. I hope you enjoy it! From now on, I’ll be blogging over at the History Girls on the 3rd of each month.
Over here, I’m stepping away from reading and writing and gardening to talk about stem cell donation. Until recently, I’d never given much thought to stem cells. But a couple of years ago our acquaintance, B, was diagnosed with cancer. He is doing fairly well, all things considered, and has recently been matched with an appropriate stem cell donor. This is critical to his treatment and potential cure.
Things I didn’t know about stem cells, but now do, thanks to the Canadian Blood Services website:
- Stem cells are important because they are “blood-forming cells”. They can develop into any of the elements normally present in the bloodstream: red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and other blood components.
- You can donate stem cells either from bone marrow (which involves surgery under general anaesthetic) or from peripheral blood (like a basic blood donation).
- You are more likely to find a stem cell match with someone from your own ethnic group.
- Fewer than 30% of patients find stem cell matches within their own families. The rest rely on the generosity of strangers.
B’s family is now working with Queen’s University’s Engineering Society to recruit potential stem cell donors for other patients. They explain, “Only about 50% of people needing a donor find one in time. For a non-family donor, the best results for the patient post-transplant are from young donors (specifically males).” They’re looking for people between 17 and 35 years of age, and especially hoping to reach young men of all ethnicities.
Why ethnic diversity?
As mentioned above, you are more likely to find a stem cell match with someone who shares your ethnic background. In 2009, the Canadian Network was 83% Caucasian – not a great reflection of our national diversity. Canadians of colour, we are under-represented!
Why men, and why the age cap of 35?
Young donors are associated with better long-term survival rates for patients. As B’s family says, “Young males are chosen as donors 75% of the time, but represent only 15% of registered potential donors.”
I might be interested. What’s involved?
5 minutes of your time, and a cheek swab (“no pricks, needles, blood or money required”, in B’s family’s words.) Then your name goes onto a list of potential donors. Anything after that is at your discretion.
Okay, then. When and where?
Sunday, September 7, from 3-5 pm, at Grant Hall. As a (literal) sweetener, there will also be Baked Goods.
I’m nowhere near Kingston. What can I do?
So glad you asked. You can go to onematch.ca and request a kit. You’ll swab your cheek and mail the kit back to Canadian Blood Services.
If, like me, you are too old to be a donor, I hope you’ll help spread the word. And if you’re in the magical 17-35 age bracket, I hope you’ll seriously consider stepping up. Thanks for listening.