Bone-marrow drive on MLK Day

Dr. Sapna Parikh reports
January 20, 2014 3:11:08 PM PST
In observance of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, we often consider today- a day of service.

And for some they're using today, to provide a life-saving service- making a bone marrow donation.

In African American communities it's so much harder to find matches.

10-year-old Michaela celebrating Martin Luther King day at ps 221. Sponsored by the non-profit organization "Seeds in the Middle"-who's mission is to "Inspire Social Change Through Sustainable Health", the community event and 5 K walk in Crown Heights promotes health, physical activity, and the message that your action could be someone's cure. The day-long bone marrow drive aims to increase the number of minority donors.

Every year more than 12,000 patients in the U.S. need a life-saving bone marrow transplant.

But only 7% of the registered donors are African American.

Technically anyone can donate bone marrow to anyone else but the more ethnically and genetically similar you are the higher the odds of success.

The odds of finding a matching donor if you're white is 93%. That drops to 66% for patients who are African American or black. And in our city of diversity, ethnicity is hard to define.

"Since there was no box that says Puerto Rican, I checked off Caribbean Indian and Black Caribbean," said David Colon.

Signing up to be a bone marrow donor is quick, one swab of the cheek. Most people are never called- but if you are, the bone marrow donation process is often painless and similar to donating blood. You can have a registration package mailed to you anytime through the national program-- be the match.