Ayoka’s experience as a marrow donor sparked a personal campaign to educate others about Be The Match®. In fact, the single mother of two, chronicled her marrow donation experience on her blog for all of her followers.
“I’ve shared links and other information from Be The Match because I know we still need more people of color to join,” Ayoka said. Ancestry is important in matching patients to donors, but African American patients have the lowest odds of finding a match compared to all other populations – and the most diverse tissue types – which makes the matching process even more challenging.
Ayoka can’t remember the exact date she joined the Be The Match Registry® as a potential marrow donor. She was in college back then.
She heard nothing for the next two decades. Then, in the summer of 2012, Ayoka received a letter saying that she was a potential match for a 12-year-old girl with leukemia. “I got so excited, and a little teary-eyed,” she remembered. “I called the very next day and told them I was still interested.”
Leading up to the donation, Ayoka underwent several medical tests to determine if she was healthy enough to donate and if she was indeed a match for the recipient. Shortly after these tests, Ayoka was told she could move forward with donation.
In her case, the patient’s physician had requested a peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donation. This is one of two methods of collecting blood-forming cells for marrow transplants. The same blood-forming cells that are found in marrow are also found in the circulating (peripheral) blood.
PBSC donation is a nonsurgical procedure, called apheresis, which is similar to donating blood. Five days prior to donating, PBSC donors receive injections of a drug called filgrastim to increase the number of blood-forming cells in their bloodstream.
While filgrastim can cause flu-like symptoms, Ayoka was committed nonetheless. “I had bone pain and bad headaches, but I was just like, ‘I can power through.’” Ayoka recalled.
The donation itself took about eight hours but was painless, Ayoka said. During the donation, Ayoka’s donor coordinator, Sarah, was by her side. Sarah walked Ayoka through the donation process to make sure she was comfortable and that there were no surprises.
“Sarah was critical,” Ayoka said. “I had family support, but most of them were out of town.”
The pair formed such a strong bond that they have remained friends. Ayoka also receives updates on the progress of the young patient she helped.
“My daughter is also going to join the Be The Match Registry when she turns 18,” Ayoka said. “It’s worth it! You could potentially save somebody’s life.”
You could have the chance to save a life like Ayoka did. Join the registry today.