Seeking Diversity In Marrow Registry

Yu Shing Ting
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Friday - July 01, 2009
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Anne Keating

In 1996 I joined the Hawaii Bone Marrow Registry in hopes of being a match for a little girl named Alana Dung, who was battling leukemia. At the time, I never knew her or her family, but her story really touched me and many others.

Currently, the Hawaii Bone Marrow Registry has seven patients looking for donors. And you might just be the one they need.

“We are an affiliate of the National Bone Marrow Program, but what makes the Hawaii registry unique is that the people here make up such a good mix of different ethnicities,” says Roy Yonashiro, recruitment specialist for the Hawaii Bone Marrow Donor Registry. “There are 7.2 million people in the national registry, but out of that number more than 5 million are Caucasian, so that means there’s a need for ethnic minority donors to get on board.”

This Saturday (July 4), you can register to be a bone marrow donor by stopping by the second annual Anne Keating Cycle 4 Life taking place at the Honolulu Club from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

A swab of your saliva (from your mouth/cheek) is all that’s needed. The event is free and open to the public. There also will be a silent auction, German beer tasting and pupus from chef Donato Loperfido and The Wine Stop.

Participants also can take part in a spin class (from 7 to 11 a.m., call the Honolulu Club at 543-3910 to reserve your bike).

The Honolulu Club also will host a membership drive with a special $75 initiation fee, $25 of that going to the Hawaii Bone Marrow Registry.

Anne Keating, a healthy, athletic, fun-loving woman, was diagnosed with aplastic anemia in 2007 at age 43.

Friends, family and doctors teamed up to find a bone marrow match, and after exhausting the National Bone Marrow Registry, one was found in Germany.

In January 2008, Keating underwent a bone marrow transplant. The procedure was a success. However, six months later Keating was stricken with viral pneumonia and passed away while in the ICU at Straub.

“I never wanted a cause, but now I have one,” says Marie Martel, Keating’s companion of 13 years and co-founder of the Anne Keating Cycle 4 Life event with Erika Eberhart and Kristin “KC” Carlberg. “I really do want to make a difference. I don’t want anyone in the world, but especially in Hawaii, to have to get a bone marrow transplant and go through the fear of is there a match or is there not a match, because of the diverse community here.”

Bone marrow donors are often needed for patients with leukemia, aplastic anemia, Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other fatal blood diseases.

What makes a person a match is not their blood type but their blood tissue type.

According to Yonashiro, nationally there have been a little more than 30,000 bone marrow transplants performed since 1979. Every year in the U.S., 16,000 people have some type of fatal blood disease, and 3,000 are actively searching for a bone marrow donor.

“They’re dying, and the only alternative is a bone marrow transplant,” he says.

Once you register with the bone marrow registry, your name stays on the list until you turn 61.

Martel describes Keating as an active young woman who never got sick. She was a member of the Honolulu Club and enjoyed spinning and surfing.

Keating was born in Sacramento, Calif., and lived in Seattle for five years before moving to Hawaii eight years ago. She worked at the Oahu Community Correctional Center, overseeing the psychiatrists and social workers in the mental health department.

“I miss Anne’s positive attitude,” says Martel, a graphic artist for Xerox. “She loved life and never complained during the entire treatment.”

Whether you knew Keating or not, Martel hopes people will honor her legacy by joining them this Saturday and by registering as a bone marrow donor. You never know, you might just save a life.

There also will be bone marrow drives July 11 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Aloha Stadium Swap Meet and Marketplace, and July 14 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Starbucks at Ward (next to Wahoo’s Fish Taco).

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