Looking For Help With Cancer

Friends, Relatives, Strangers Sign Up As Possible Marrow Donors

July 20, 2009|By Don Markus | Don Markus,don.markus@baltsun.com

Andres Zapata says that the lacrosse teams he and Jonathan Haupt played on at Goucher College more than a decade ago weren't very good. But Haupt was always one of the leaders in practice as well as games.

"He was always there to help," Zapata recalled Sunday

Zapata, along with many of Haupt's friends, family and many total strangers, is now trying to return the favor as Haupt, a 32-year-old software developer from Northern Virginia, battles a rare and aggressive form of leukemia called acute myelogenous leukemia. He was diagnosed in March.

Doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital have told Haupt that he will likely need a bone marrow transplant to survive. More than 200 people had signed up to be tested as possible donors Sunday, halfway through a scheduled eight-hour drive at Ryan's Daughter Irish Pub in North Baltimore, one of several drives that have been scheduled to help Haupt and others fight the disease.

According to Zapata, who helped set up a Web site (teamhaupt.org) as well as a Facebook page to attract potential donors, there have been 10,000 views to the Web site and more than 1,000 people have signed up on Facebook. More than 325 people signed up as possible donors at a drive in Reston, Va. And 160 more in Brookline, Mass. Another drive is scheduled for Rockville on Sunday.

"One of the things that is keeping him going is the numbers," Zapata said. "He's a geek at heart. He likes numbers. He's a scientist, he likes to see metrics. Everyone who comes through the door is the next possible match. It could be you, it could be me, it could be someone else."

Testing for a matching donor is ongoing, said Amanda Nable, who works in donor recruitment in New York City for DKMS, the German Bone Marrow Donor Center. Nable said that DKMS, which does the testing, is responsible for 25 percent of the bone marrow donors worldwide.

Shannon Gray heard about the bone marrow drive for Haupt through a mutual friend, and decided to sign up when she heard it only took "a simple swab and not a needle."

"At first I was kind of nervous. It's just a simple swab, it's no big deal. It's kind of a low-key commitment," said Gray. "I think it's really cool, it's so organized."

Through Haupt's wife, Courtney, comedian and talk show host Jon Stewart publicized Haupt's battle on The Daily Show in advance of two similar drives held in New York City in the past week. Haupt made a brief visit to the Baltimore restaurant, friends said.

Brad Leiber, who grew up with Haupt since age 4 in Herndon, Va., said that his longtime friend was told that the leukemia was in remission after the first round of chemotherapy before learning that the disease had returned in early May. Only 5 percent of those suffering from leukemia are diagnosed with AML.

"The response is not what we'd like it to be - we'd like a million people to find that match," said Leiber. "But it's been overwhelming with the people we don't even know."

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