Submitted by Paula Miller, Executive Director, The William G. Pomeroy Foundation
A bone marrow transplant can save a life. For six-year-old King DeLee, that’s exactly what he and his family have hoped for: finding a matching donor.
King, who experienced his wish to go to Walt Disney World® Resort in 2019, was born with a hereditary immune deficiency known as CD40. Without a match, his condition will become fatal. Despite it all, King bravely faces his ongoing fight like a “champ,” says his mother Denisha DeLee.
Since 2015, Denisha has worked with the William G. Pomeroy Foundation, a grant-making foundation based in Syracuse, N.Y., which has organized multiple bone marrow drives in King’s honor.
The cause is close to home for the Foundation, as one of its main initiatives is to help diversify the bone marrow registry to enable more patients to find a matching donor. That mission began in 2005 when the organization’s founder, Bill Pomeroy, was fighting acute myeloid leukemia and his survival was in doubt.
Bill was matched with a donor and received a life-saving stem cell transplant. Wanting to help others in a similar situation, Bill established the Pomeroy Foundation. To date, it has helped conduct hundreds of Be The Match® bone marrow drives, registering nearly 30,000 people and producing 80 donor/patient matches.
King, who is African American, is one of thousands of children who need a match. Often a bone marrow transplant is the only hope for patients facing a range of conditions, including leukemia, lymphoma and sickle cell anemia.
Patients are most likely to match with donors of the same ethnic background or ancestry. But the chance for connecting with a genetically matched donor aren’t the same for all. Black and African American patients have a 23 percent chance of finding a match. Increasing the donor pool can improve the odds.
Misconceptions about being a bone marrow donor are sometimes a registration barrier. For example, most donors give their blood through a simple donation process. Other donors may do a marrow donation, which takes place under general anesthesia. While you may experience some achiness for a few days after, you’ve helped save a life! There’s never a cost to the donor for any procedure.
Joining the registry is easy. Donors must be between the ages of 18-44, meet the health guidelines and be willing to donate to any patient in need. Potential donors register online and do a simple cheek swab.