During the second half of March, a bone marrow donor drive was held for Curtis Bronson, a senior at the University’s Ambler campus who is diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL).
Bronson, 28, was originally diagnosed with ALL in 1996.
Because of the diagnosis, he had to put college on hold.
After enduring two years of chemotherapy, the cancer began to go into remission, and Bronson began attending school again.
Bronson is a Psychology major and is minoring in Biology.
He is planning on becoming a biology teacher, and he remains active in his church as a musician, outreach minister, and youth mentor.
“He has had a very interrupted [academic] process,” said Bronson’s girlfriend Keisha Watley.
“He was set to graduate in December of 2003 but it had to be rescheduled due to this current setback.”
Three months ago, Bronson learned that the cancer had relapsed and was worse than before.
Because the disease is more acute, chemotherapy is no longer an option, and the only chance Bronson has for full remission is a bone marrow transplant.
The bone marrow drive, which was sponsored by Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in Philadelphia, lasted two weeks and had a total of about 300 people give blood, said Watley, who organized the drive.
“Originally, it was just supposed to be one week, but we got such an overwhelming response,” she said.
“Not all the people got to give blood on the first week, so we had a second week.”
ALL occurs when a person’s bone marrow produces a defective abundance of lymphoblasts.
Lymphoblasts aid in cell growth, but when too many are produced, red and white blood cells, which also grow in the bone marrow, are crowded out.
Because white blood cells aid in fighting infection, a person’s immune system is depleted.
Symptoms for ALL are similar to those of the flu. The most common are persistent fevers, weakness, frequent infections and pain in the bones and joints.
Having poor coloring in the skin and an enlarged liver and spleen are also signs of the disease.
Bone marrow donors must have closely matched genetic traits with the patient in order for the transplant to work.
Potential donors give blood to be tested, and their information is stored in a database by the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP).
When a patient requires a transplant, doctors can search the database to look for a match.
No actual marrow is extracted until a match is found and a donor agrees to the procedure.
The NMDP tested all of Bronson’s family members, but was unable to find a match.
Family members and people of the same race as the patient offer the best chance for finding a match, according to NMDP.
Fewer than 20 percent of the 4.5 million registered donors nationwide are black, and that makes finding a match for Bronson, who is black, more difficult.
Potential bone marrow donors can contact the Philadelphia National Marrow Donor Program Donor Center at the American Red Cross Penn-Jersey Region Musser Blood Center at 215-451-4122.
Donors complete a brief health questionnaire, take a small blood sample and then sign a form that allows your tissue type to be listed in the national registry.
You must be between the ages of 18 and 60 and in good health in order to be a blood donor.
Other donation registration sites can be found at www.marrow.org.
Jonathan Vann can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Facts about Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia
ALL is also known as acute lymphoid leukemia or acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Nearly 75 percent of all children with leukemia have the ALL type, and it is the second-most common childhood cancer, after brain cancer.
Treatment for ALL includes chemotherapy, radiation, bone marrow transplantation and a number of investigational biotherapy medicines.
Long term physical effects of ALL treatments include increased risk for other cancers, osteoporosis, heart disease and impaired mental growth if the patient is a child.
Facts from https://wellness.ucdavis.edu/