Do You Believe #BlackLivesMatter? Here's How to Save One

Huffington Post | Diane A. Thompson,MD

Three years ago, 40-something Dorothy Vernon Brown had what she describes as the perfect life. Like so many other ambitious Caribbean nationals, she had moved from Jamaica to Canada in search of better opportunities. Married to the man of her dreams for more than 20 years, she had two happy and healthy kids, a supportive church family, great friends, a beautiful home, actively volunteered, and owned a thriving marketing consultant business.
Then, in the summer of 2013, her world fell apart. After returning home from a Jamaican vacation, she noticed a bruise on her leg. Further evaluation revealed acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a lethal adult blood cancer in which the bone marrow makes abnormal cells and carries a five-year survival rate of just 25 percent. Chemotherapy proved insufficient. One year later her cancer returned, with a bone marrow transplant now her only hope for survival. 
Dorothy's search for a life-saving bone marrow match has turned out to be far more difficult than she could have ever imagined -- a reflection of the fact that people of color are woefully under-represented on bone marrow registries throughout the world. The result: If you are someone of African ancestry, as Dorothy is, you are far more likely than your Caucasian peers to die while waiting. Only 7 percent of potential adult donors on the registry are black, while 67 percent are white, according to the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) and Be The Match.
For bone marrow donation to succeed, the donor and recipient need to have similar genetic makeup. Dorothy's Irish and African background would complicate her search in any case, but an even bigger problem is that she lives in Canada where she's been told that less than 1 percent of people on the donor list are of African ancestry. She also searched the NMDP, the world's largest and most diverse registry with more than 10.5 million potential donors, and had no success due to low representation of black donors. Although Dorothy is from the Caribbean, a place rich in potential donors, she said that after conducting an exhaustive search she found no official bone marrow registry in the region. To learn about black lives and organ donation, continue reading

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