The Donor Registry Makes It Painless

Jade Moon
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Wednesday - July 05, 2006
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What’s the scariest thing about being registered to be a bone marrow donor? Some people wouldn’t want to admit it, but what’s keeping them away is the blood. Up until now, in order to type a potential donor the person had to give up a bit of their blood.

That’s not all, says Roy Yonashiro of the Hawaii Bone Marrow Donor Registry.

“They don’t want people watching them, or they’re afraid they’ll faint and be embarrassed. That, and it takes time to do it.”

No more.

Yonashiro is the donor recruitment coordinator for the Bone Marrow Registry. That little needle prick, he says, is a thing of the past. And that’s a good thing.

“Getting past that hump brings down any walls people might have,” he says. Instead of drawing blood, “this is easier.”

That’s because all that’s needed nowadays is a bit of saliva on a swab. No pain, no blood.

“It takes 10 seconds to swab each corner of their mouth. It’s one minute, quick and painless. That means more people are willing to share their experience.”

This is very good news for the many people waiting for life-giving bone marrow transplants.

According to the registry, only 30 percent of those needing transplants will find a suitable donor within their families. The rest have to find an unrelated match. What makes it even more complicated is the fact that matching donors are more likely to be found within the same ethnic group. In a state populated with Asians and Pacific Islanders, finding a match depends of the depth of the minority donor pool. That pool, according to Yonashiro, is still far too shallow with about 67,000 registered donors throughout Hawaii, Guam and American Samoa. That, he says, is a small amount for the size of our population.

With the new bloodless technique, Yonashiro hopes to reach many more people who might otherwise have avoided the process. They will still hold donor drives, because there is still a need to educate. People will want to ask questions not only about the registration procedure, but also about what happens if they turn out to be a match. But Yonashiro says he’s seeking new venues. He’d like to take the drives into businesses, including banks, insurance companies, and more employee places. They set up a drive at the recent Asian American Journalists Association convention.

One of the beauties of the swab technique is that even those in more remote areas or in places where they don’t have access to a donor drive can register - by mail. If you’d like information on how to get a donor kit, call the registry at 547-6154, or log on to the website at

The process may be easier than it ever has been, but it still takes a leap of faith and commitment to offer a part of yourself to save a life.

Yonashiro understands this, but he’s optimistic.

“My goal is to get everyone to sign up.”

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