At that time, Burkitt's Lymphoma was always fatal...usually within 6 months. Then, in 1975, the first bone marrow transplant was performed on a Burkitt's patient. 16 year old Dave Stahl received bone marrow from his younger brother. Today David is 49 years old, healthy, with a 13 year old son.
In 1979, 10 year old Laura Graves was dying of Leukemia and had no matches in her family. Her parents began looking outside the family for a donor. A hospital staff member turned out to be a match, and became the first ever non-related bone marrow donor. The transplant was a success. Laura's family immediately began organizing a registry to help other cancer patients in search of a donor. Laura passed away two years later when her leukemia relapsed, but her family continued their fight for donors.
Their efforts led to the creation of the Nation Bone Marrow Registry in 1987. Today the registry has 11 million registered donors, and facilitates in 3,600 transplants a year. It is still a difficult procedure with a lot of potential complications, but there is now hope where before there was none.
Unfortunately, bone marrow matches are extremely hard to find. Only 30% of cancer patients have a suitable donor within their family. The registry receives about 11,000 bone marrow requests per year, but can only match for a third of the requests. Every month 500 cancer patients are told the technology exists to save them, but a suitable donor does not.
Donating bone marrow has become a relatively easy process for the donor. It is similar to the process of donating blood. And to register is nothing more than a cotton swab of the inside of your cheek. Please consider joining the registry. You can do so by going here.
It may be in your destiny to save a life. To save the life of a total stranger, for no benefit other than knowing you did it. Now how cool is that? Go for it. What have you got to lose?
David Stahl, 1975. First bone marrow transplant for Burkitt's Lymphoma.