The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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March 2, 2010

Hospital to offer painless new test during bone marrow drive

BECKLEY — On March 9, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., area residents will have the opportunity to join Raleigh General Hospital in saving lives through the Be The Match bone marrow registry.

During these hours, those interested in donating bone marrow can be tested with a new simple, painless test to see whether they are a bone marrow match.

“This testing used to involve painful needle sticks, and if you were a match, the bone marrow was harvested with needles,” said Janet Halstead, laboratory director at RGH. “Now, we use a small circular brush to swab the inside of the person’s cheek. That provides us with enough DNA to determine whether or not someone is a match with another person on the bone marrow registry.”

Testing will be done at the education center, located on the Kroger side of the hospital.

Those wishing to be tested must be 18 or older and will undergo a general health screening similar to that of a blood donor.

“There will be several stations so we can process people efficiently. Each person will have to be cleared for general good health before being tested as a donor match,” Halstead said.

It takes about three weeks for match results to be determined.

When there is a match, in 75 percent of the cases a donor’s stem cells can be harvested in a manner similar to that of giving blood.

“The blood is drawn through a needle in the arm through a process called apheresis,” Halstead said. “The stem cells, which are use for the bone marrow transplant, are harvested and the remainder of the blood is recirculated back into the donor’s body.”

The process takes about three hours.

In 25 percent of the cases, the harvesting of bone marrow would have to be done the traditional way with needles.

“This is such a cool new technology and it will save the lives of so many people,” Halstead said. “With this new technology it’s so much easier to be a donor.”

A bone marrow transplant delivers healthy bone marrow stem cells into a patient whose bone marrow is either not working properly or has been destroyed by chemotherapy or radiation.

RGH became personally interested in becoming part of a bone marrow registry as a result of the needs of an employee’s daughter.

During her pregnancy, Chanel Bentley of Oceana was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia, a form of cancer that starts inside the bone marrow, which is the soft tissue inside bones that help form blood cells. Immediately after she gave birth to her son Ayden Oct. 23, Chanel was taken to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown to undergo a rigorous three-week course of chemotherapy. She, like many other patients who undergo the process, suffered the loss of healthy cells killed along with the cancer cells. Chanel now needs healthy bone marrow cells to help her recover.

Chanel’s mother, Milette Bentley, is a phlebotomist at RGH, and over the past several months, the staff has followed Chanel’s crisis.

“I don’t think she can live to raise that baby unless she gets a bone marrow transplant,” Halstead said.

Other employees also have family members who need bone marrow transplants. Nationwide, there are thousands of people who need them as well.

Once area residents are tested and are determined to be donor matches, they can designate whether they want to donate for Chanel, other local people or to be put on the national registry.

Apheresis — the harvesting the stem cells — is not done at RGH, but the Be the Match donor registry program provides transportation to and from a donation site, such as Morgantown or Charleston.

“We are hoping once we get the word out how easy it is to be screened, a lot of area residents will come and participate and become donors. This has the potential to impact thousands of lives if we can identify enough donors,” Halstead said.

For more information, call 304-256-4100 or visit www.Bethematch.com.

— E-mail: bdavis@register-herald.com

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