Newswise — BIRMINGHAM (Aug. 28, 2019) – Jada Lucas, 22, of Birmingham, Ala., was introduced to her lifesaving bone marrow donor at Children’s of Alabama on Wednesday as part of the hospital’s activities to commemorate September as National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and Sickle Cell Disease Awareness Month.
Lucas was only nine years old when she was diagnosed with severe aplastic anemia—a disease in which the bone marrow does not produce enough blood cells for the body. After multiple treatments over the years, it was determined that she needed a bone marrow transplant.
Her donor was Jerome Lewis of Philadelphia, Penn. Lewis had registered with Be the Match when he was a freshman at Elon University, eleven years prior to receiving a call that he was a match. In 2017, he gave Lucas the lifesaving gift.
“In the field we work in, seeing a patient meet their donor is an actual realization of the work we do on a daily basis,” said Melissa Wallace, program coordinator at Children’s of Alabama. “It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day routine, but being able to see the process full circle is amazing,” she said. “No words can describe what it is like witnessing this opportunity—it will change your life forever.”
More than 90 percent of all Alabama children diagnosed with cancer or a serious blood disorder are treated at The Alabama Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s. Each year, approximately 30 of these children require a lifesaving bone marrow transplant. Children’s is the state’s only dedicated pediatric bone marrow transplant facility that specializes in therapies for deadly cancers and blood disorders.
“I’m very excited to meet him and his family,” Lucas said. “I cannot wait to tell him thank you for seeing me as being worthy of a second chance at life. It will be an experience I’ll never forget.”
When a child needs a bone marrow transplant from another person, only about 10 percent are able to find a suitable donor in their families. That means that doctors must turn to the registry the other 90 percent of the time.
Enrolling on the registry is easy – participants between the ages of 18-44 have a cheek swab performed. Afterwards their name is added to the National Marrow Donor Program registry, which currently has about 10 million people in it.
“One of the hardest things for a parent to hear is that their child has be to be treated with a bone marrow transplant,” Wallace said. “The next hardest thing is that there is a potential cure, but there is not an available donor. We encourage all people of all backgrounds to register, in order to give each patient a chance at a cure.”