There are thousands of patients from different backgrounds that are suffering with different blood diseases, but they all have one thing in common: their lives can be saved by donors. Every three minutes someone in the U.S. is diagnosed with a blood cancer and for many patients, a bone marrow transplant is their only chance for survival. While 30 percent find a matching donor in their families, 70 percent of patients — nearly 14,000 a year — must rely on a benevolent stranger to donate. These 14,000 patients may work with different doctors or follow different treatment regimens, but in the end they rely on a stranger for a second chance at life.
This #Swabtember, you can help! We created this month to highlight the various awareness themes during September. Childhood Cancer, Leukemia and Lymphoma, and Sickle Cell Anemia. Why do we call it #Swabtember? Because we all have the chance to #GetSwabbed for patients in need of a life-saving match.
Join the movement to save lives during SwabtemberRegister
Tiffany was a little girl who loved going to school, riding her bike and taking dance classes despite fighting sickle cell disease. But by the time she turned 10, she was in crippling pain and couldn’t attend school or continue dancing. When a journalist asked Tiffany what hurt, she answered “Everything, most of the time.”
In 2009, eight-year-old Jake Amato’s cancer came back. His parents, Debby and Ken, were told that the only way their son would beat acute lymphoblastic leukemia was through a bone marrow transplant.
Kenny, Jake’s older brother, wasn’t a match so the transplant would have to come from an unrelated donor. In 2010, Jake received a bone marrow transplant thanks to a stranger across the Atlantic Ocean. 820 days post-transplant, The Amatos met Carrie Ann, the German woman who saved Jake's life. Ken said, “She’s an angel. She saved my son’s life.” Now The Amatos have a new family member and Jake can enjoy moments of playing outside like other kids. “When I grow up, I want to be a firefighter like my dad. Because I want to save lives. Just like Carrie Ann saved mine,” said Jake.
Justin is a 33-year-old husband and father from St. Louis, MO, who was diagnosed in November 2015 with Lymphoma. After going through extensive chemotherapy treatments, he received a stem cell transplant from his own stem cells, and now doctors say he needs a bone marrow transplant by the end of the year to remain in remission.
In May 2014, Shira Klein happily celebrated two big days with friends and family: Her birthday, and the 1-year anniversary of the stem cell transplant that gave her a second chance at life.
Justin is always thinking of the well-being of others and has been involved in cancer support groups in the St. Louis area. He also started an entertaining blog called “Then I Got Cancer,” where he shares his point of view and positive outlook in battling his disease. Help give this blogger the opportunity to write about how he became cancer free by registering to be a donor.
Shira’s journey began on New Year’s Eve 2010 when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma while on vacation with her husband and three young children. Despite this devastating news, Shira kept smiling.
After enduring months of intense chemotherapy, and multiple relapses, Shira needed a stem cell donor. Her sister was not a match, and none could be found on the bone marrow donor registry. In hopes of finding Shira a matching donor, her husband, Justin, along with family and friends joined together with love and support to launch the Smiles4Shira Facebook page and website.
For Shira, the toughest part of each day was staying strong in front of her children – but they were also her greatest motivation. “The idea of not being able to be a part of their lives made me wake up every day, no matter how I felt, and give it my all,” she said.
In the meantime, the Smiles4Shira team gave it their all -- working with DKMS to swab and register as many people as possible.
In May 2013, Shira received the greatest Mother's Day gift of all - a lifesaving transplant from her mother.
Shira’s transplant was a success and today, Shira is a survivor. Smiles4Shira is still hosting drives -- motivated by the belief that every patient deserves a second chance to live, love, and be with their family. In the first two years, Smiles4Shira registered more than 10,000 potential donors, resulting in more than 110 matches for patients. The fact that Smiles4Shira is helping to save the lives of other mothers, fathers, sons and daughters is something that keeps Shira smiling every day.
“As my husband’s mother was known to say, ‘There is a lid for every pot,’” Shira explained. “We will not stop until every pot has a lid, one smile at a time.”
Meet 6-year-old Jordan Levy. He loves Pokémon, soccer, and swimming. Jordan was recently diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. He is currently undergoing treatment at a children's hospital in Florida.
FF Jimmy Martinez, 25 year veteran of the FDNY, is assigned to engine 157 in Staten Island. Jimmy was a 9/11 and Super Storm Sandy first responder and he is the proud father of 3 children and grandfather of 2 grandchildren. Jimmy was diagnosed with Multiple myeloma in June of 2013 and underwent years of intense chemotherapy as he searched for a matching donor.
Jordan needs a bone marrow transplant. He doesn't have a matching donor within his family, so he must rely on the kindness and generosity of a stranger. "Jordan is a very laid back and happy go lucky child, he has handled his diagnosis with grace, he never complains and he's always smiling.", says Jordan's mom.
Let's give Jordan a shot at having a normal childhood.
Jimmy selflessly responded to Ground Zero on 9/11 and spent countless days thereafter for the rescue and recovery effort. During that time he went back to his old firehouse, engine 230 to help get the firehouse back on its feet after their loss of 6 members on that tragic day. Years later, Jimmy showed that same courage and dedication on the night of Hurricane Sandy, pushing through heavy winds and neck deep water to evacuate people from their flooded homes.
Jimmy's courage and patience in his fight with multiple myeloma were rewarded in mid 2016 when, at long last, he received a transplant from an anonymous donor. He's now recovering in his home on Staten Island and looking forward to returning to the life he left on hold.