Finding Your One True Match
Did we catch your attention? Perhaps disappointing to some, the NAJC is not launching into the dating business. However, we do want to bring your attention to a matter of importance to the Japanese Canadian community. Individuals of Asian descent may find it difficult to locate a potentially life-saving stem cell donor should health issues arise such as Leukemia. And if you are of mixed racial background, the challenges will be even greater. At the 2014 AGM dinner, staff from Canadian Blood Services were present to share information about the program and encourage individuals to sign up for the One Match registry. Providing information about the One Match Stem Cell and Marrow national registry is an article written by Communication Specialist, Marcelo Dominguez from Canadian Blood Services. The challenge of finding a stem cell match is also a focus of filmmaker Jeff Chiba Sterns. Visit mixedmarrow.org/mixedmatch for more information.
MEN WANTED: Young, male donors from various ethnic backgrounds are needed to give patients the best chance
by Marcelo Dominguez, Specialist, Communications, Canadian Blood Services
Canada is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world and some say mixed unions are the wave of the future.
Findings from a 2010 Statistics Canada report show that Japanese in Canada had the highest proportion of marrying or partnering outside their visible minority group, with 75 per cent of those coupled off choosing a non-Japanese partner.
Canada’s unique diversity presents a challenge in our ability to find stem cell matches for patients from ethnically diverse communities, since a patient’s best match is often someone of similar ancestry.
Factor in the rise in mixed marriages or common-law unions and it’s easy to understand the unforeseen health implications. The good news is mixed unions also present opportunities to help save lives.
Like mixed unions, the demand for life-saving stem cell transplants is increasing each year and the growth is expected to continue as more diseases are being treated with stem cell transplants.
Stem cells are immature cells that can turn into any of the cells present in the bloodstream. They’re currently used for treating more than 80 life-threatening blood-related diseases and disorders.
At any given time, there are hundreds of Canadian patients from varied ethnic backgrounds in need of a stem cell donor.
Approximately 75 per cent of patients rely on the generosity of an unrelated volunteer stem cell donor to save their life. But when it comes to stem cell transplants, not all donors are created equal.
That’s why Canadian Blood Services works to provide the best donor available – or “optimal donor” – for all patients in need, through its OneMatch program.
The international transplant community has defined optimal donors as young males between the ages of 17 and 35. Not only do men tend to have more stem cells, but stem cells from younger male donors result in fewer post-transplant complications and offer patients better outcomes.
Given the option, a patient’s doctor will generally prefer a young male donor. Despite their importance, these donors currently make up just five per cent of Canada’s current stem cell donors.
And because genetic markers used to match donors to patients occur with different frequencies in different communities, donors from all ancestral backgrounds are needed to enhance the registry.
Composition of OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network
Could you be a patient’s Mr. Right? Saving a life can be as simple as 1-2-3
1 Register. Go to blood.ca, locate the Stem Cell drop down menu at the top of the web page and follow the steps to register to be a donor. Joining the Network is a long-term commitment as a person could be called six months after registration or seven years later. It is important for registrants to notify Canadian Blood Services of any changes in their health status or contact information.
2 Swab. Once you’re registered, you’ll get a buccal swab kit (used to swab the inside of your cheek to collect DNA) in the mail with clear instructions and a postage-paid return envelope. When it reaches the Canadian Blood Services lab, the team will extract your DNA for typing and enter your information into the registry’s database. You could be a potential match for a patient anywhere in the world.
3 Donate. If you’re found to be a match, and you’re an eligible donor, you can donate. If you’re a match, a Canadian Blood Services team member will contact you and invite you in for a health assessment. If you’re eligible, you could donate stem cells in one of two ways. Many people wonder about the procedure and whether it’s painful to donate stem cells. In 80 per cent of cases, stem cells are taken from blood – a relatively painless and easy procedure. In 20 per cent of cases where we need to take stem cells from the hip area, you’ll be under general anesthesia, and will feel a little sore afterward, similar to the bruising you may feel after falling on ice. For more information on both procedures go to blood.ca.
Those who aren’t eligible to join OneMatch, or who are removed from the registry after reaching the upper age limit, can still play a key role in helping to save lives.
Some other important ways you can help patients in need are by donating blood, volunteering your time at a blood donor clinic, signing up to become an organ and tissue donor through your provincial program and letting your loved ones know about your wishes. Expectant mothers, at participating hospitals, are also helping to build a diverse public stem cell bank by making the decision to donate their baby’s cord blood.
For more information on how you can help visit blood.ca.