Matchmaker, Matchmaker

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Matchmaker, Matchmaker

Be The Match brings donors and patients together to fight disease

For thousands of City of Hope patients, a bone marrow transplant is the answer to beating the blood disorder threatening their lives. When no family members can provide matching marrow, finding a donor elsewhere can seem impossible. But the Be The Match registry, an international roster of bone marrow donors, helps make the impossible happen.

Making a Match

When Kennedy Kraus was just 8 years old, she was diagnosed with severe aplastic anemia, which is often fatal without a bone marrow transplant. Her doctors began searching the marrow registry and sent her to City of Hope, one of the largest, hospital-based donor centers of blood and platelets in the country. They didn’t know that a donor match was waiting 9,000 miles away.

Ten years earlier, Robert and Petra Benz of Germany volunteered for the bone marrow registry after hearing about a young man with leukemia who needed a matching donor. Neither was a match for him, but they remained on the registry. When Robert Benz received a call from the U.S. that someone needed his help, he donated without hesitation.

After the transplant, Kennedy recovered quickly. She and Benz were even able to meet in 2009 at City of Hope’s annual Celebration of Life Bone Marrow Transplantation Reunion. “To know someone’s life was saved by my donation is the best feeling one can have,” Benz said.

What to Expect

Once you’ve joined the Be The Match registry, you don’t need to do anything else until you are contacted about a match.

If you are a match with a patient, the process to extract the necessary blood stem cells or bone marrow is quick and doesn’t require any hospital time. Also, donors are able to return to their daily activities almost immediately. There are two ways to donate:

  • Blood stem cells: About 80 percent of those called to donate will be asked to give blood stem cells. To prepare, you will receive four or five injections of a drug that will increase your blood stem cell production. The cells will then be extracted from a vein in your arm, similar to giving blood.
  • Bone marrow: The remaining 20 percent of donors give bone marrow. To do this, you are put under general anesthesia. A needle is inserted into the back of the pelvic bone where the cells are then extracted. Afterward, you may feel a little sore for a few days, but over-the-counter pain medication will help.

Becoming a Donor Is Easy

Be The Match connects donors with kids and adults who need bone marrow transplants and blood stem cell transplants, says Jill Kendall-Erb, program director for Be The Match at City of Hope.

Today, more than 8 million people are on the Be The Match registry, but it could use many more. “There’s a great need for people who are of an ethnic or racial minority,” Kendall-Erb says, because minority and mixed-race patients have more difficulty finding a matching donor.

Signing up to be a donor is simple. First you must be between 18 and 60 years old, in good health and reside in the U.S. or Puerto Rico. Then, complete an online form to order a registration kit. When your kit arrives, follow the instructions to swab the inside of your mouth and return the kit.

— Colleen Ringer

Be Someone’s Match

Joining the Be The Match registry is simple, and is a great way for friends, family members and caregivers of City of Hope patients to give back to others who need help. Request a free donation kit by calling 626-301-8483 or by visiting

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