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Raleigh judge's bone marrow donor registry helps other patients

Posted January 5

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— An unidentified cancer patient recently found a potential bone marrow donor through a registry that was started to help find a match for a Raleigh superior court judge with blood cancer.

The patient and unidentified potential donor registered during one of the "Save the Fox" bone marrow donor drives in the Triangle area, originally for Superior Court Judge Carl Fox.

Fox, who had a form of blood cancer called myelodysplastic syndrome, became too sick to wait for a bone marrow donor match himself. Instead, Fox received a stem cell transplant at the North Carolina Cancer Hospital using umbilical cord blood. He's now home recovering with positive signs that his cancer is gone and his new immune system is working.

"I never said it, but I didn't know if I'd be alive," Fox said.

Meanwhile, the judge hoped for good news for other patients in need. Now he knows, from donor drives in his name, that another patient with blood cancer has hope.

"This is what we've been looking for," said Bobby Murray, Delete Blood Cancer recruitment coordinator. "We've been looking for the opportunity to save not only his life, but somebody else."

Murray said it's just the beginning of the process for that potential donor.

"That donor starts going through some work up, which means they'll do some additional blood tests," Murray said. "They'll make sure that they are the perfect match for that patient.

"Once they make that commitment, that tells the physicians, that tells the patient, there's now hope for you."

Once the patient is confirmed as a suitable match and commits to go through with the donation, Murray said the patient will be prepped and then will go through intensive chemotherapy and radiation to kill all the cancer in their body. After chemotherapy, the patient will be ready for the infusions of donor stem cells.

Donors will be scheduled for going to the nearest available collection site, which could be in the Triangle area. If local options aren't available, the donor can be taken to a place like Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, or Georgetown in Washington, D.C.

There are two ways to donate: The most common method is peripheral stem cell collection, which is done 75 to 80 percent of the time. It's a simple needle in the arm, removing the stem cells from the blood and returning the red cells to the other arm, which takes about 4 to 6 hours, Murray said.

About 20 to 25 percent of the time, though, donation is through bone marrow, which is done as general surgery. The donor is unconscious while a needle is placed in the pelvic bone, extracting bone marrow stem cells.

Bone marrow donors might wake up with a sore tailbone, but also with the satisfaction that they might save a life.

If you would like to join the bone marrow registry, you can order a free kit at deletebloodcancer.org.

2 Comments

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  • Erika Phipps Jan 5, 2016
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    BeTheMatch.org indicates most matches are made from donors 18-44, and it costs nothing to donate. However, to donate from ages 45-60 there's a $100 fee, and less chance of matching. I've been on the list over 20 years and while I'm glad there's still the potential I could help till I'm 60, it's a shame that fee will prohibit possible matches from "older" donors.

  • Charis Ober Jan 5, 2016
    user avatar

    Judge Fox's story is one we are starting to hear more often... a bone marrow match cannot be found, cord blood is the best option. Aren't we grateful for those who donate bone marrow and cord blood? In particular, cord blood can be collected in the majority of births. However, parents must be proactive about their wishes when speaking with doctors. Give life twice. Save the cord. Learn more at www.savethecordfoundation.org