Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Be The Change

My wife, Emily, and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary today by signing up to be bone marrow donors. Yes, you read that correctly.

Twenty years is quite a milestone. The average length of a marriage in the United States is just eight years. Knowing how much work it is to keep a relationship working, I can understand that statistic. We've had twenty great years, but not every moment was perfect. It takes work and compromise and love. We spent a lot of time thinking about how to commemorate this special milestone and we both wanted to do something special. But what?

Then I saw a tweet and a blog post from a friend of mine, Scott Porad, who wrote about his cousin Katie who needs a bone marrow transplant. There are 12 million people on the registry as potential donors and none are a match for her. And there are thousands of others in Katie's plight.

Organ donation isn't something that we're new to. Emily and I have both been signed up as organ donors since before we were married. When my sister and father died, tough as it was to make the decision at a time like that, we donated their organs. We heard back in both cases that their organs were used successfully (I don't know if that still happens). We've also both had close relatives die of cancer and we've donated money to cancer research. But we'd never signed up to be on the bone marrow registry. What was stopping us? Mainly lack of knowledge. Not knowing how trivial it is to sign up and how simple the actual donation process is -- in most cases, it's a relatively minor outpatient procedure. Once we learned the reality, it became a no-brainer to sign up, and it seemed like a pretty good way to celebrate life.

It costs money to add people to the registry, so you may be asked to defray the processing costs with a donation. If you can't afford to donate, they won't turn you away, but do think about donating if you can afford it. For us, the donation was an anniversary present to ourselves and two other people we'll never meet who will have their registration paid for. If you're excluded from registration for age or health reasons, I hope you'll consider donating to sponsor the registration of someone else. And, as long as we were at the Puget Sound Blood Center, we decided to donate blood too.

Will our signing up help Katie? Or any specific person in need? Chances are low. Very low. And that's why it's so important to get as many registrations as possible. It's a numbers game and, right now, the numbers favor cancer. Every person who registers helps to change that.

To join the registry anywhere in the US, visit the Be The Match Foundation at

For more information about Katie, check out

If you tweet about this, please use the hash tag #savekatie and reference @BeTheMatch. The short URL for this blog post is

"Be the change you wish to see in the world" -- Mohandas K. Gandhi