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DALLAS (Feb. 12, 2014) – Malena Brown is hoping for a match on Valentine’s Day this year, but not the kind you would normally expect a pretty, vivacious, 15-year-old girl to wish for. Malena is a patient at Children’s Medical Center Dallas and the match she and her family are searching for is an unrelated volunteer “angel donor” whose bone marrow stem cells offer the only hope of a cure for her chronic myeloid leukemia.
Children’s Medical Center is helping the Brown family issue a call for donors through its annual ‘Be The Match’ donor registry drive, on Friday, Feb. 14, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Volunteers 18 to 44 can stop by Children’s main hospital location at 2350 Stemmons Freeway in Dallas or Children’s Medical Center at Legacy, 7601 Preston Road in Plano. Free parking is available in front of both locations. A simple cheek swab for tissue typing is all that’s required. Anyone who wishes to join the registry also can order a kit online to be sent by mail.
Volunteer donors who sign up for the national Be The Match Registry are the only hope for patients like Malena who do not have a compatible donor in their own families and must rely on the registry to find an unrelated person who is a genetic match. According to the Be The Match Registry, some 70 percent of all patients who need a stem cell transplant must look outside their families for a donor.
Finding a match for Malena is especially challenging because her biracial heritage makes it statistically more difficult to find someone compatible. People of African-American heritage are under-represented in the registry, and people with any combination of mixed-race heritage are greatly needed as potential donors for the simple reason that they are statistically more scarce in the population.
Malena’s father is Gary Brown, Dallas Cowboys running backs coach, and former professional football player whose career included eight seasons with three NFL teams. His heritage is African-American, while Malena’s mom, Kim Brown, is an American of European descent.
The Browns represent the changing face of families in America today. The most recent U.S. census data shows multiracial families are on the rise, with a nearly 50 percent increase in multiracial children since 2000. The multiracial population in America is predominantly young, which means finding potential adult donors for children like Malena is a big challenge.
“The best chance of a match for Malena is someone who shares her ancestry, and the more people who join the registry, the greater the odds of finding someone,” said Dr. Andrew Y. Koh, director of pediatric hematopoietic stem cell transplant program at Children’s, assistant professor of pediatrics and microbiology at UT Southwestern Medical Center.
A simple cheek swab is all that’s required for tissue typing. Those who sign up online and use the promo code “childrens” will be sent a free kit in the mail. For those registering either in person or online, the normal $100 sign-up fee is waived as Children’s provides a donation to Be The Match cover the costs. For more information about online registration, visit www.childrens.com/bethematch.
Founded in 1913, the not-for-profit Children’s Medical Center is the sixth-largest pediatric health care provider in the country, receiving nearly 700,000 patient visits annually with 595 licensed beds at its two full-service campuses in Dallas and Plano, and multiple specialty clinics and 16 primary care MyChildren’s locations. Children’s was the state’s first pediatric hospital to achieve Level 1 Trauma status and is the primary pediatric teaching facility in North Texas, affiliated with UT Southwestern Medical Center. This year, Children’s is celebrating 100 years of making life better for children. For more information, please visit www.childrens.com.