Contributed by Kelly Mare
I have a personal interest in promoting bone marrow drives. Back in 1997, our nine-year-old son, Logan Joseph Marre, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia. At first, everything was going well for Logan. He was initially treated in Seattle and then came home for “maintenance chemo”.
In April of 1998, we were told Logan had relapsed. The only option we had, was for him to receive a bone marrow transplant. A world-wide search went into effect and not one single person matched him. Ironically, his brother and sister matched each other identically, but they were not a match for Logan. Multiple bone marrow drives were held and still no one matched him. A search of the National Cord Bank Registry was done and stem cells from an umbilical cord that had been donated matched Logan. At the time of his transplant, only 500 cord blood stem cell transplants had taken place. Logan had his transplant in August of 1998. Unfortunately, he passed away on October 24, 1998 from complications.
After Logan’s death, it became my mission to educate others about registering as a bone marrow donor. At one of my bone marrow drives, Logan’s friend, Caitlin (Huckins) Wankowski registered to become a bone marrow donor. She said she wanted to honor her friend Logan.
Within a very short time, Caitlin was notified that she was a match for someone! She quickly agreed to fly to Seattle to go through the process. The National Bone Marrow Donor Program paid for all the expenses for Caitlin and her companion. Caitlin said she was so excited to be chosen. She said she was not nervous and the process was relatively simple and she experienced very minimal discomfort. She told me she was hooked up to a few machines via IV’s in both arms for four hours two days in a row. This process is called apheresis. Five days before the donation, she was given injections of Filgrastim to increase the number of stem cells in her blood. Her blood was removed from one arm and passed through a machine that collected the stem cells. The remaining blood was returned to her through the other arm. Caitlin reported that she felt completely fine after her donation. One year later, she received a letter and a picture of the gentleman who was alive because of her willingness to be a donor.
Caitlin wasn’t the only one who was a perfect match for someone at one of the drives I coordinated in memory of Logan. We were thrilled when we heard of others being a match. There were also several friends who were potential matches, but further testing indicated they weren’t a close enough match. My friends were very disappointed and held onto hope to make it to the final round.
Seventeen years after Logan was diagnosed with leukemia, I was told I also had leukemia. I was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia, which is a very fast growing and deadly leukemia. Just like Logan, I was initially doing great, and then I too relapsed. I was also told my only chance of survival was to have a bone marrow transplant. History repeated itself when a search failed to locate a match from the twelve million registered on the National Marrow Donor Program.
My friends started organizing bone marrow drives in my honor. Drives were held across Alaska as well as other states. Hundreds registered in hopes of matching me. Unfortunately, no one did. Shortly after one of the drives at Church on the Rock, Macaela Wolfe and her siblings were all notified that they matched a patient! They decided Macaela would be the one to go forward with the donation. Macaela was twenty years old and was inspired to be a donor after hearing the story about Logan and me. She stated she initially was very nervous, but her excitement exceeded her fear. She said it felt like a dream to be able to save someone’s life.
Macaela said that Be the Match handled every single detail of her trip. She was a very busy young lady, but declared she never thought of backing out. She reported the actual procedure was simple and almost painless. She too was injected with medication to boost her stem cell production. Macaela enthusiastically said, “To anyone considering registering, I would not hesitate to say do it! It is so easy and very rewarding to know you could save someone’s life. Even if it wasn’t as simple as it is, I would still do it a million times if I could.”
I also was the recipient of an umbilical cord stem cell transplant. As an adult, I needed two cord bloods for my transplant. Two mothers in France had donated their baby boy’s umbilical cords after birth. My transplant was done on May 14, 2015 and I’m happy to say I am still in remission.
Getting on the registry is a very simple procedure. The potential donor fills out paperwork, talks to a trained volunteer about any medical concerns, and then rubs a swab on the inside of their cheek. That’s it! It’s simple and painless.
If you want to be a hero like Caitlin and Macaela, join us at Church on the Rock on Sunday, February 12th. Wouldn’t you like to be the one who saved a life?