San Antonio site of largest marrow registry drive for World Marrow Donor Day

GenCure and H-E-B join worldwide effort to find lifesaving transplants for leukemia and other blood cancer patients
September 13, 2018

On Saturday Sept. 15, San Antonio will be the site of the largest coordinated World Marrow Donor Day registry drive in the world.  World Marrow Donor Day is an international effort to thank donors worldwide and educate and encourage the public to join the global registry and become stem cell donors. Volunteer donors who are a match will donate stem cells or bone marrow to aid patients with leukemia, lymphoma, and other blood cancers.

GenCure, a subsidiary of nonprofit BioBridge Global, is partnering with H-E-B and Be The Match to host marrow donor registration drives at 16 H-E-B locations for World Marrow Donor Day. The drives will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Donors, patients and patient families will share their stories about how the registry affected their lives.

“We are honored to have such a committed partner like H-E-B join us to help register donors and help find lifesaving treatments for blood cancers,” said Becky Cap, GenCure chief operating officer. “Our community has always come together in times of need, and right now, with hundreds of Texans searching for a marrow donor, I’m hopeful that our friends and neighbors will respond and join the registry.”

Since patients are more likely to find a match from their own ethnic or racial background, San Antonio plays an important role in registering Hispanic and multi-ethnic donors. The local registry has more than 250,000 people from 60 counties in the region— 80 percent of whom come from ethnically diverse backgrounds.

San Antonio is also home to the first Hispanic donor in the nation, Ralph Morales. This year marks the 25th anniversary of his donation.

In the early 1990s, Morales was inspired to join the registry by the story of a young patient who lived several years longer, thanks to a bone marrow transplant. He was called to donate to a 22-year-old leukemia patient in 1993, when only 7.3 percent of donors on the registry were Hispanic.

While prepping for the donation, he recalls the doctor saying, “You have no idea the impact of what you’re doing, do you?”

Morales would not truly understand that impact until several years later, when he had the opportunity to meet his recipient and his family. During the emotional visit, the recipient’s parents expressed how appreciative they were that Morales saved their son’s life.

It has been several years since Morales last spoke to his recipient. The last time they were in contact, he received a photo of the recipient with his wife and child.

“Take that opportunity and be the match,” Morales said. “The rewards are bigger than what you go through.”

Approximately 14,000 patients need marrow or stem cell transplants every year. The Be The Match registry matches potential donors to patients requiring life-changing treatments for leukemia, lymphoma and other blood diseases. As more people join the registry, the chances a patient will find a lifesaving match increases.

If a donor is a match, he or she will be contacted to schedule an information session. Those interested in joining the registry are asked to do so only if they intend to follow through with the donation. Half of the donors contacted will decline to donate, which devastates the patients and families waiting for that one match.

Signing up for the marrow donor registry is the first step to be the cure for someone in need. Text Cure44 to 61474 to start the registration process. Volunteer donors must be between the ages of 18-44, in general good health and have no history of or current serious illnesses.

In addition to the marrow donor registry drives, South Texas Blood & Tissue Center will be hosting blood drives at H-E-B stores at 23635 Wilderness Oak and 2130 Culebra Road from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

MEDIA NOTE: Media is welcome at 2130 Culebra Road from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Representatives from H-E-B, GenCure and STBTC will be available for interviews.