“People are dying right now, because there aren’t enough registered donors,” Shelton, an Oklahoma City Democrat, said. “This has become a ministry of sorts for me, a passion to encourage people to get on the registry and follow through on their donation if they are called to donate.”
Audrey Womack, marrow donation coordinator for the Oklahoma Blood Institute, said Shelton’s office now has the forms and DNA swabs on hand to register donors.
“There’s an urgent need for diverse populations to register and it is important that people know how much the donation process has changed,” Womack said.
Shelton said that when he was called to donate marrow, he was surprised to find that the procedure has become simpler. “Technology has changed so much that donating marrow
is literally like donating blood,” Shelton said. “They have isolated the stem cell that creates marrow, so they don’t have to take marrow directly in many occasions. In my case, they drew my blood.”
Shelton was able to give a 31-year-old Arizona woman suffering from Hodgkin’s lymphoma the marrow she desperately needed to recover. According to the bone marrow donation organization, Be The Match, more than 10,000 patients are diagnosed with life-threatening diseases such as leukemia or lymphoma in the U.S. each year. Approximately 70 percent of those patients do not have a matching donor in their family.
In a press release sent to CapitolBeatOK, Rep. Shelton said the statistics are even grimmer for African-Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Asian Americans. For example, while there are more than 6 million white bone marrow donors, there are only 600,000 African-American donors available.