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Georgia mom’s search for life-saving transplant highlights need for black donors

Urgent Need for Black/African-American Donors to Join Be The Match® Registry

ATLANTA, GA – As Mother’s Day approaches, a 26-year-old Georgia mom, Briana Stephens, continues her search for a matching donor to help her receive a life-saving blood stem cell transplant.

At age 10, Briana was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a dangerous blood disorder that keeps her blood from clotting. The disease impacts her life drastically. She had to set aside her dream to be an early childhood teacher because her immune system was too compromised to be around small children. She experiences extreme fatigue; receives frequent blood transfusions and platelet checks; attends weekly doctor’s visits; and receives weekly plasma donations. A blood stem cell transplant from a perfectly matched donor is the only cure for Briana’s condition. But after more than a decade of searching, she still has not found a match. Despite it all, Stephens is determined to make a normal life for her 6-year-old son, Tabiaz, and become a spokesperson for others who are searching for a donor match.

Black and African-American patients, like Briana, have only a 23 percent chance of finding a blood stem cell donor, compared to a 77 percent chance for Caucasians. To make matters worse, of the 22 million people on the national Be The Match® donor registry, only 4% are African-American. To help Briana and other African-American patients in desperate need, more committed African-American donors are needed to join the Be The Match® registry. To find out more information about how to join the registry visit https://www.bethematchatl.org.

“I have a of lot days where I’m weak, this disorder makes you tired, makes you not want to eat sometimes, makes you want to sleep and lay in bed all day, like the bed is just pulling you in,” Briana recently said on Black Blood Heals, a Be The Match podcast. “But when it comes to my son, I just have to push myself most times to get up and do it for him because I am his mother and I want to make it happen for him. And I want him to see that I am doing everything that a mom can do regularly without anything being different for him, so he won’t feel like an outcast.” See full interview here https://www.iheart.com/podcast/1248-black-blood-heals-60811401.

Be The Match is a non-profit organization that maintains the National Marrow Donor Registry and provides potential cures through blood stem cell transplants for patients battling blood cancers and other blood disorders like sickle cell disease.

“While new social distancing guidelines have changed how we recruit donors, the need for Black donors to join the registry remains as critical as ever,” said Rod Gunn, Partnership Manager, Be The Match. “We don’t want patients like Briana to have to wait over ten years to find a donor. Our goal is to return these mothers and fathers to better health so they can focus on the things that are important to them, their children.”

Adults ages 18 to 44 years old can join the Be The Match Registry online by answering a simple questionnaire. A cheek swab kit will be mailed to their homes and can be returned in the postage-paid envelope. One in 430 registry members will go on to donate life-saving blood stem cells to a patient in need.

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©2019 Atlanta Tribune: The Magazine

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