By Rob Glidden
A registration drive for bone marrow transplants will be held on Sunday, November 25 at the Southington YMCA. The “Be The Match” event was organized by Tiffany Bannon, a former resident who owes her life to a bone marrow donation.
Bannon was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010 and in addition to chemotherapy and radiation treatment, she discovered that a bone marrow transplant would be needed. In November 2011, she received a transplant from an anonymous donor but emphasizes that many are not so lucky.
The event on Sunday morning is not about collecting any actual bone marrow; it is intended to get more people listed on the national registry. All participants need to do is fill out paperwork and have their cheeks swabbed with a Q-tip.
“My main goal in having this drive is obviously to save lives, but I also want people to know how incredibly easy it is to join the registry,” Bannon said. “It’s easier than giving blood. No harm can come of it, and if down the road they are ever found to be a match for someone, they can always turn it down. I also want people to know that the majority of donations are no longer made by harvesting bone marrow through the lower back. Nowadays, the donation itself is usually just an IV blood draw – similar to giving blood.”
Typically, those who need bone marrow donations seek out siblings, who are likely a perfect match. This is not absolute, however, as Bannon discovered when none of her three brothers proved to be a compatible match. She had to turn to the national registry and ultimately found her donor there.
“My daughter is trying to give back,” said her mother, Barbara Bannon. “Her brothers weren’t a match and this donor is the reason she’s alive today. Usually, a sibling is a match but if one isn’t available, they need to find as close a match as possible in the national registry.”
The family was told that Tiffany’s donor was a 24-year-old male from the United States, but nothing more. With the one-year anniversary of the transfusion approaching, Bannon can fill out paperwork to find out who her anonymous donor was.
“I’m approaching my one year mark, which is huge in terms of long-term survival rates,” she said. “Regardless of whether he’s Matthew from Ohio or Ryan from Massachusetts, he will always be the angel that saved my life.”
To join at the drive, participants need to between 18 and 44 years of age and be willing to donate. Fees for the drive are covered by health insurance companies or the Michael’s Fund organization. Participants are advised to bring their health insurance cards. Cash donations to Be The Match will also be accepted during the drive, which starts on Sunday, Nov. 26 at 11 a.m. at the YMCA.