Why I am on the National Marrow Donor Registry, and how you can Be the Match

Register for Be the Match run or donate here

TAMPA - I hope you'll join ABC Action News at the 2013 Be The Match Walk/Run at Al Lopez Park in Tampa on Saturday, March 9. I am honored to take part again this year, this time as a co-emcee along with Community Affairs Director Lissette Campos. If you can't join us, I hope you'll consider making a donation. The link to my participant page is here. I'll update the progress of the fundraiser via my Twitter feed @TampaBayTraffic.

This year, 12,000 people in the US will be diagnosed with a life threatening blood cancer and be told they need a bone marrow transplant. 70% of them will not have a donor match in their family. The Be The Match Foundation will help find a donor. Joining the National Bone Marrow Registry involves a simple cheek swab. Only one in 540 people on the registry go on to donate, which is why it's so important to have as many people registered as possible.

Saturday, March 9, between 7:30-10:30 AM, you can attend the Be The Match event at Al Lopez Park in Tampa and join the registry. If you aren't able to attend, you can have a swab kit mailed to you. Simply go to www.marrow.org to learn how to do that.

I am on the National Marrow Donor Registry to honor my personal hero.

Our story began in 1999. While working for a television station in Virginia, I interviewed an elderly man who was trying to raise money for his daughter, Debbie Parker, a married mother of three, who was dying of liver disease. In the story, I mentioned that Debbie was eligible for a living liver donor, a then-experimental surgery? at the time, the only living liver donor transplants being done involved family members. Within minutes of my news story airing, the television station received a phone call from a viewer, Ken Schuler, who wanted to help.  Ken was a longtime blood donor. He was on the National Bone Marrow Registry and had the same rare blood type, B+, as Debbie.

Within weeks Ken became the first person in the world to donate a portion of his liver to a stranger. When I asked Ken why he made the call to the television station that day he told me that if he was standing on the bank of a river, and saw someone drowning, he wouldn't turn and walk away - he'd dive in and help. That's how he felt when he saw Debbie's story.

Because of Ken, Debbie lived long enough to see her children grow up into adulthood.

The day I listed myself on the National Marrow Donor Registry it was because of Ken. I saw a Public Service Announcement on television that featured a person drowning, and asked 'would you walk away?' The words were taken right out of Ken?s mouth. I immediately found a blood mobile, donated, and became a member of registry.

A couple of years passed, and I continued to donate blood. And one day I received a call, informing me that I was a potential match to be a bone marrow donor. I?m pretty sure the first person I contacted was Ken Schuler! I was so excited. I wanted to help. I underwent additional blood tests, but unfortunately was later told that the patient was unable to undergo a transplant at the time.

Maybe I'll never be a match again, but maybe I will. And if I am, I know that yet again Ken will be the first person I'll call. And you know what? I?m sure if I asked him to be by my side during the process, he would be. He's just that type of guy.

Thank you for taking the time to read about my hero, and I hope to see you on March 9! - Meredyth

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