03-26-2020 Watervliet bone marrow donor says he’d do it again; Columns;

SAVED A LIFE… “I would do it again, if asked,” Bill insists. He doesn’t call himself a hero, but he saved a life with his actions.


Watervliet bone marrow donor says he’d do it again

By Teresa Smithers Isn’t it funny how life works? If Leah Dibble’s son had never suffered with leukemia, she never would have made friends with another woman whose son also had leukemia and needed a bone marrow transplant. A bone marrow transplant often offers the only possibility of a cure for patients with life-threatening blood cancers like leukemia or lymphoma, or diseases like sickle cell anemia. Sadly, her friend’s son did not receive that transplant in time. Leah did not want to see another person perish for lack of a donor. In the summer of 2017, she hosted a “Be the Match” donor event at Hartford Speedway that led to her brother becoming a bone marrow donor and saving a life. And this was all because her son had become sick. “If my son had never gotten sick, I never would have had a drive,” Leah said. “And to have my own brother become a donor – it’s a miracle.” At the Be the Match donor drive, healthy individuals ages 18-44 (the age group most requested by doctors) were recruited to join the Be The Match Registry. Being healthy and within that age group, Leah’s brother and Watervliet firefighter, Bill Whitney Jr. decided to join the registry. All that was required was $100 to help with processing and a cheek swab (matches are determined through DNA). The sample was sent to a lab to determine tissue type, then was added to the Be the Match Registry. This registry is the connection between patients searching for a cure and life-saving bone marrow donors. Not everyone in the registry will match and be asked to donate to a patient; in fact, only one in 40 will be called for additional testing. Many patients receive 100 or more possible matches, but one patient only received six matches; Bill was one of those six. He was contacted last fall. Whitney filled out an extensive health questionnaire and submitted to some tests, after which he was determined to be the closest match. The chance of someone actually donating is one in 430, but Bill was that one. He and his sister, Leah, traveled to the University of North Carolina, which had the facilities and the schedule to accomplish it. Bill Whitney downplays his part, saying only, “It was not that bad. They put two small incisions in my back, then drilled two small holes near my pelvic bone.” The discomfort he went through, he said, “was not near what people go through who have the illness.” He and his sister were able to go out for dinner the next day. He believes the trade of a little discomfort for someone’s life was totally worth it. “I would do it again, if asked,” Bill insists. He doesn’t call himself a hero, but he saved a life with his actions. Leah Dibble will host a second “Be the Match” donor event again this summer. Come to Hartford Speedway on Friday, July 10, 3-7 p.m. to join the registry. Non-Caucasians are especially sought, as there are few in the Registry and non-Caucasian patients need donors. The Registry seeks to be more diverse. Be the Match cannot predict what an individual’s chance of donating to a patient might be, but it’s important to remember anyone could be the only person who could save someone’s life. Becoming a bone marrow donor is a big decision; visit bethematch.org for more information. Who knows? You, too, may save someone’s life.


Colorectal Cancer Awareness

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and a perfect opportunity to talk to your doctor about colorectal cancer screening. While colorectal cancer remains the nation’s second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths for men and women, the good news is that it can be prevented and found at an early stage. In Michigan this year, the American Cancer Society estimates there will be 4,570 cases of colorectal cancer and 1,640 deaths due to the disease. Adults age 50 and older should be regularly screened for colorectal cancer. Unfortunately, many people aren’t getting tested because they don’t believe they are at risk or they aren’t aware of the different testing or screening options. The importance of early detection cannot be overstated. This Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, make it a priority to discuss the different testing options with your provider. Through proper colorectal cancer screening, doctors can find and remove hidden growths (called “polyps”) in the colon before they become cancerous. Removing polyps can prevent ca