Patient spurs marrow drive

July 24, 1996|By Diane E. Otts | Diane E. Otts,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

It was an after-church coffee hour with a twist, as members and friends of St. Matthew's Greek Orthodox Church in west Columbia donated blood samples in an effort inspired by a congregant who is considering a bone-marrow transplant.

Sunday's event, which took place after the congregation's regular service at Slayton House in the Village of Wilde Lake, will help build the list of donors for the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) Registry, a computerized registry of more than 2.25 million donors. The blood samples are tissue typed to determine how six genes that define marrow are positioned on the chromosomes. The volunteers' tissue type is recorded by the NMDP's main computer and searched on behalf of patients who need marrow transplants.

"The key is to get people aware of the program," says Zachary Pappadeas, a lawyer with leukemia who is trying to raise awareness about the marrow donor program while he decides whether to have a transplant.

Pappadeas, who lives with his wife, Mary Kay, and their two young children near the Village of Hickory Ridge, has chronic myelogenous leukemia.

The blood disease causes his body to produce too many white blood cells, choking out red blood cells and making it difficult for oxygen to be transported to his heart.

There are several treatments, but only a bone-marrow transplant can provide a cure. And Pappadeas, at age 42, is considered too old to be a good candidate for a transplant.

The procedure requires that the patient, before the transplant, receive intensive chemotherapy or radiation treatments, or both, in an effort to wipe out the disease. These treatments also destroy the immune system, leaving the patient vulnerable to infection after the transplant.

Numerous other complications can arise, including rejection of the donated marrow.

A 43-year-old donor has been identified for Pappadeas in Germany.

While he is deciding whether to proceed with the transplant, he is undergoing interferon therapy, which is believed to slow the progress of the disease.

Marrow types are inherited, much like skin, hair and eye color. The best chance for a match is between people of the same heritage.

For that reason, the NMDP is working to diversify the registry, which has a majority of Caucasian donors.

"We are desperate for volunteers from African-American, Asian Pacific Island, Latino and American Indian backgrounds," says Joy Demus of the National Institutes of Health Marrow Donor Center in Rockville.

For more information about the National Marrow Donor Program, call the National Institutes of Health Marrow Donor Center at (301) 496-0572, the Johns Hopkins Hemapheresis Center at 955-6347 or the American Red Cross at 764-7000.

Pub Date: 7/24/96

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