It's been four years since Carol and B.J. Diamond's infant daughter, Cameron, underwent a bone marrow transplant - a risky, complicated medical procedure - to beat the leukemia that was threatening her life.
Since then, the Crofton couple have watched Cameron grow into a healthy child - a little girl who, with her bright smile and dimpled cheeks, could easily allow her parents to forget about the deadly disease with which she was born.
Instead, the Diamonds have vowed never to forget it.
Tomorrow, they are joining more than a dozen of their Crofton neighbors, along with a team from Johns Hopkins Hospital, to host a bone marrow donor recruitment drive at Crofton Woods Elementary School.
Called the "Team Ryan" drive, the event will honor 10-year-old Ryan Tomoff, a fourth-grader at Crofton Woods who has been battling leukemia for eight years and recently underwent a bone marrow transplant.
"When our daughter was sick, we had so much community support it was incredible," Carol Diamond said. "When she started to get better, we thought there was no way we could just say thanks and move on with our lives. We didn't want to let all the information we learned go for nothing."
Diamond said she hopes the drive will debunk some of the common misconceptions about becoming a potential bone marrow donor - a process that requires only a few minutes of paperwork and a small blood sample to determine tissue type.
"It's so much easier than people think, and there are so many people out there in need of matches," Carol Diamond said.
According to the National Bone Marrow Donor Program, only 30 percent of patients in need of a bone marrow transplant - a last-resort procedure used to treat aggressive cancers and rare blood diseases - find a donor match among their family members. The remaining 70 percent must search for a donor in the program's national registry.
The program estimates that approximately 3,000 people nationwide are unable to undergo transplants because they can't find a matching, willing donor.
Carol Diamond said she experienced firsthand the fear of not finding a match when Cameron, at 7 weeks old, was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia. Days later, doctors at Anne Arundel Medical Center told the Diamonds that their baby's survival would depend on a bone marrow transplant. When tests showed that no one in the family matched Cameron, the Diamonds turned to the national registry. Fortunately, they found a match in Athens, Ga. - a man who had participated in a church bone marrow drive.
"His marrow saved our daughter's life," Carol Diamond said. "That's why we have to do this drive."
The Johns Hopkins team will take blood samples at the "Team Ryan" event, and hand out the paperwork required to join the registry. They will also explain to donors that only when they are contacted by the registry will they have to decide whether to give their marrow - a surgical procedure lasting less than two hours and performed under general anesthesia.
During the surgery, doctors extract a small percentage of marrow - the jelly-like substance that fills the bones and contains blood-forming stem cells - from the back of the pelvic bone. Most donors experience few side effects other than temporary soreness and bone pain.
A donor's marrow takes a few weeks to regenerate.
Tomorrow, Ryan Tomoff will mark the 10th day since he received a transplant at Duke University Hospital in Durham. N.C.
By phone from the hospital, Ryan's mother, Terry, said that her family has been inspired by the efforts of their community.