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Marrow donation drive Thursday for Kentucky girl with leukemia

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When Charlie Ferrell first met Mailyn Chandler, he made her a promise.

"She stole my heart," Ferrell said of the 8-year-old girl from Louisa, Ky.

Mailyn has suffered from leukemia since 2008. She needs a bone marrow transplant.

"I made her a promise that I would not quit trying to help her find a match and I can't break that promise no matter what," Ferrell said. "If I had to get out and crawl I would, 'cause I'll never break that promise to her."

So far, in the seven or eight tissue-donor drives that Ferrell has organized for Mailyn, more than 2,000 people have been tested.

This evening, he hopes more potential donors will be tested in her honor. Ferrell is organizing a tissue drive Thursday afternoon from 4 to 7:30 p.m. in the Charleston Civic Center. 

Potential donors who attend the driver will have the inside of their cheeks swabbed. While the drive is in Mailyn's honor, potential donors can be matched with any patient awaiting transplant.

Anyone between the ages of 18 and 44 who is in generally good health can register to be a donor, said Betsie Letterle, an account executive at Be the Match, the national marrow donor program.

Those with sleep apnea, insulin-dependent diabetes, immune system deficiencies, and chronic back programs that require rods may not donate.

Every donor put on the registry costs Be the Match $100. Donors are not required to pay that amount but donations are accepted, Letterle said.

If someone is a tissue match for someone awaiting a transplant, the patient's physician will decide if the patient gets a stem cell or bone marrow transplant. Most of the time the patient gets a stem cell transplant. Around 30 percent of the time they will receive a traditional bone marrow transplant.

The procedure to give bone marrow is done while the donor is under anesthesia, despite what people may have seen on television or in movies, Letterle said.

"What they see on television shows and movies -- it's dramatic and not always quite reality," Letterle said. "It's a lot less than what they show on TV."

Stem cells donations are similar to blood plasma donations, Letterle said. In the days leading up to the donation, the donor is given a drug that makes the body produce more stem cells. On the day of the donation, blood is taken from the donor's arm, pumped into a machine that separates the stem cells and then put back into the person's other arm, she said.

After a person is found to be a match for someone, they have the opportunity to donate but are not required to do so, Letterle said.

For more information, visit http://marrow.org/Home.aspx

Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.


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