DEAR ABBY: Our community is currently rallying support for a 10-year-old who has cancer. We have orchestrated many blood drives in her honor. However, at the City of Hope hospital in Duarte, Calif., and the Red Cross blood donating centers, we've encountered the same situation: Not one person who has donated blood was ever asked if he or she would like to be put on the bone marrow registry. I had to ask the person drawing my blood several times to be placed on this list. It seemed to be a problem for them.
I want your readers to know that if you donate blood, there are no additional needles to get your bone marrow registered. To get on the registry, you must allow them to draw a little more blood -- without any additional needles.
Also, while donating blood, it's important to sign up for the blood platelets donation. People with cancer need platelets desperately.
I think it's inexcusable that people who draw blood from other people don't explain how easy it is to get on the bone marrow registry. It's also inexcusable to me that they don't explain the need for platelets.
There's no better charity than donating blood to hospitals that treat children for cancer. You can even receive a $5 gift certificate, which you can then give to any child currently under the care of the hospital. This allows the child to go to the gift shop and purchase a magazine or cartoon coloring book.
Thank you very much, Abby, for your attention to this matter. Please help spread the word about donating blood and the bone marrow registry. -- JIM MULLIGAN, GLENDALE, CALIF.
DEAR MR. MULLIGAN: Thank YOU, for an important letter. After reading it, I made inquiries about it with both the Red Cross and City of Hope. A media representative from the Red Cross informed me that "donors wishing to be placed on the bone marrow registry must have their blood tested for Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) type, and sign a consent form allowing his or her name to be placed on the bone marrow registry. This HLA-type testing is NOT performed on WHOLE blood donors, which may have been the reason he (Mr. Mulligan) was not made aware of the bone marrow registry at the time. It is performed, however, on apheresis donors.
"Apheresis, available at most Red Cross blood donor centers, is a special kind of blood donation enabling the collection of platelets. Blood donors who want to learn more about apheresis donation should call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE to find their nearest Red Cross Blood Center. Once their blood is HLA-typed, and their consent is given, they will be registered as potential bone marrow donors."
Charles M. Balch, M.D., the president and chief executive officer of the City of Hope, had this to say: "The policy of City of Hope Donor Center is to ask each blood donor if he or she would also like to register with the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP). This is done when the donor first arrives, and then again during the medical screening. In addition, the donor registration area contains signage with information on registering with the NMDP.
"However, despite efforts to inform blood donors of the NMDP, oversights can happen. If the individual who contacted you was not asked if he wished to join the NMDP registry, it was an oversight on our part. We are currently in the process of taking steps to ensure that our policy is followed without exception. In addition, we're planning to redesign the donor center canteen/waiting area to create a more effective visual presentation of all our donor programs. As a pioneer of one of the world's largest bone marrow transplantation centers, we support the efforts, and understand the importance of the NMDP."