Want To Help Save A Life? Participate In Bone Marrow Drive In Boise Friday; It’s Easier Than You Think

A cheek swab and some paperwork. That’s it.

In as little as 10 minutes, you can join a registry that allows you to be a potential bone marrow or peripheral blood-cell donor for someone who needs a transplant to survive.

Debi Drake, a registered nurse at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center, and her husband have been on the national marrow donor registry — also called Be The Match Registry — for about 15 years. She’s been called once about being a possible match, and her husband has been called a couple of times.

“It’s never panned out,” the 57-year-old nurse said Sunday.

When Kip Higby, a friend of Drake’s, was found to have leukemia in April, Drake decided that it was time to raise awareness in the Treasure Valley about the national bone marrow program.

“There’s a lot more people who need bone marrow donors than have them. The more people we can get on the registry, the better,” Drake said.

Local residents ages 18 to 60 can participate in a bone marrow drive from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday in McCleary Auditorium at Saint Alphonsus in Boise. No appointment is needed.

The matching process involves finding a donor who has the same six to 10 human leukocyte antigen proteins, or markers, as the patient.

Higby, 41, is a Boise police sergeant who is the supervisor of the special victims unit and bomb squad. He waited about a month before a match was found for him.

“It’s a man who is 29, and he’s somewhere in Europe,” Higby said.

He will travel to Seattle for the procedure because there are no transplant centers for unrelated donors in Idaho.

Doctors diagnosed Higby as having acute myeloid leukemia on April 4. Two of his siblings were tested first — experts say that there’s a 25 percent chance that any sibling will be a match. Seventy percent of patients do not find a match in their families, though, according to the National Bone Marrow Donor Program.

Higby’s siblings “didn’t match close enough,” he said.

Drake said as many as 500 people from the public safety community plan to participate in Friday’s drive to help those who need transplants, like Higby.

Bone marrow donation is a surgical procedure — a needle is used to withdraw marrow from the pelvic bones. Anesthesia is used for the extraction, but there is usually some residual lower back pain for a few days.

Peripheral blood-cell donation involves removing blood from the donor’s arm with a needle.

Learn more about the Be The Match Registry and health guidelines online at marrow.org. Katy Moeller: 377-6413