Program gives life to bone marrow disease patients

Tony Parra

The “Give Life” program will be in full force on Thursday from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Roosevelt General Hospital in an attempt to receive donors for bone marrow transplants.
The National Marrow Donor Program will work in conjunction with the Roosevelt General Hospital to interview candidates who will be asked to donate blood for testing. Roosevelt General Hospital employees will take blood samples from citizens and give them to National Marrow Donor Program members, who will take the samples to Lubbock to be input into a database to see if there are any matches in the country.
“There is a donor center in Albuquerque,” Roosevelt General Hospital Lab Director Bobbi Lyons said. “They will do the testing in Lubbock to have an exact match because once they find an exact match, they will take out the diseased bone marrow tissue from the patient and replace it with the donor’s. There is no going back from that point.”
Portales is not immune to the bone marrow disease which has hit close to home for a couple of Portales residents.
Kimberly Tate of Portales has a nephew, Zachary German, who is three months’ old and is suffering from Hemohagocytic Lymphohistiocytoisis, which is a bone marrow disease. German’s mother, Stacy German, grew up in Portales before moving to Richmond, Va.
Zachary German was born in July 21 and was diagnosed with the disease approximately two weeks ago, according to Tate. Candidates range from 6 months old to 60 years for a match.
“They say that it’s genetic,” Tate said about the disease. “No one in our family has had it. They also said it could be because of a bad viral infection. They said it’s treatable, but not curable.”
Kevin Gardels of Portales was diagnosed with a rare cancer called Myelofibrosis. He completed successful surgery at a hospital in Los Angeles this past spring and returned to his home in Portales in June.
Full recovery from the surgery is expected to take eight months for Gardels to regain the same amount of red blood cells of a normal human being. Gradels was diagnosed with the disease in July of 2002 and his weight dropped from 280 pounds to 140.
“Candidates have to be qualified to donate,” Lyons added. “They must not have used street needles, be HIV positive, Hepatitis or Epilepsy among other things.”
Bone marrow transplantation is a special therapy for patients with cancer or other diseases which affect the bone marrow. A bone marrow transplant involves taking cells that are normally found in the bone marrow (stem cells) and giving them back either to the patient or to another person according doctors at the University of Maryland Medicine.