Be The Match Feature Story - On October 1st, Be The Match® became a lot more intentional about building a younger registry. Recruitment efforts are now focused on individuals ages 18 – 44. Why? Because transplant doctors request donors in this age range more than 90 percent of the time. “Multiple studies examining the impact of donor age on transplant success show that younger donors result in better outcomes for patients,” said Willis Navarro, M.D., medical director of transplant medical services for Be The Match, operated by the National Marrow Donor Program®.
While Be The Match focuses attention on recruiting individuals ages 18 – 44, patients waiting for a life-saving transplant need support from people of all ages on the registry. “Every committed registry member is valuable because each one may be a match for a patient. For this reason, we are keeping the registry open through age 61,” said Dr. Navarro. “The change we’re making is focused on recruitment practices, so we grow our registry with members most likely to be called to donate.”
Among those efforts is strengthening recruitment on college campuses. In 2010, Lexy, a college sophomore, joined the registry at a Yale University drive. Two months later she was called to donate for a 64-year-old man diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. “I donated three days before Christmas, and it was the best gift I’ve ever given – the gift of life,” said Lexy. “Now I am very involved with organizing drives on campus each year. After four years of drives, we’ve added more than 3,000 people to the registry with over 14 matches to date.”
According to Dr. Navarro, there are many ways to help save lives. “It costs about $100 to add a new member to the registry, and Be The Match relies on financial contributions to help cover these costs,” he said. “Volunteering and spreading the word about the need for younger donors are also life-saving contributions.”
People ages 18 – 44 may join the registry at a local registry drive or online at no cost to them, but they will be asked to make a voluntary financial contribution. Those ages 45 – 60 who are interested in joining the registry are welcome to do so online at BeTheMatch.org/join with a $100 tax-deductible payment. All potential donors must meet age and health guidelines, and be willing to donate to any patient in need. Each registrant completes a health history form and provides a swab of cheek cells.
“Thousands of people are looking for a match,” said Lexy. “I joined the registry and when I received the call from Be The Match saying I was a match, it was the most amazing feeling. Now I tell other students that they, too, could be the cure.”