SVSU Assistant Football Coach Donates Marrow
Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 4:39PM
Laurie Brady - Webmaster

Josh Miller may be known as a football coach amongst his peers, but a recent donation has given him another title - Lifesaver. 

Less than a year after signing up to join the National Marrow Donor Program’s Be The Match Registry at a bone marrow registry drive at Saginaw Valley State University, the SVSU assistant football coach received a phone call from Michigan Blood informing that he was a potential match for a middle-aged patient with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that affects the immune system. The Saginaw Township resident proceeded with confirmatory testing and donated peripheral blood stem cells in January 2013.

“I wasn’t sure what would happen after I signed up, but I knew I wanted to do something to help,” said Miller, 26. “When I received the call I was excited that I could affect someone else’s life in such a big way.”

The Michigan Blood Stem Cell Program, a Be The Match Registry affiliate, recruits potential marrow donors to help patients in need of bone marrow and blood stem cell transplants. Patients with life- threatening blood-related illnesses depend on the Registry to find a matching donor. A bone marrow transplant replaces damaged or destroyed bone marrow with healthy bone marrow stem cells. This procedure can be used to cure illnesses such as leukemia, lymphoma and sickle cell.

Miller is a part of a small percentage of people who are called upon to make a marrow donation. On average, one in every 540 members of the Be The Match Registry in the U.S. go on to donate bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells to a patient. With more than 10 million potential donors on the Registry, only four out of 10 patients find a match. To increase the number of matches, the Michigan Blood Stem Cell Program hosts registry drives to add potential donors to the Be the Match Registry. 

“Patients needing marrow transplants can only find a suitable match within their family about 30 percent of the time,” said Barbara Hile, program manager for Michigan Blood’s Marrow/Stem Cell Program. “The remaining 70 percent of matches are made between complete strangers through the Be the Match Registry. A marrow transplant is often the patient’s last, best chance for survival.”

Miller, an SVSU alumnus, says his eyes have been opened to the possibilities of giving back and encourages others to join the Registry.

“It’s a humbling experience to know that my contribution could help someone,” he said. “I’m hoping that others will consider joining the Registry. It starts with taking a little step and putting self to the side.”

To join the Registry, registrants must be between the ages of 18 and 44. The process includes filling out a health questionnaire and providing a cheek swab. The total cost to add a new member to the Registry is about $100. Michigan Blood fundraises throughout the year to offset the cost of tissue testing necessary for registration. Most often, a majority of these costs are covered and new registry members are asked to contribute only $25. Because of the need to diversify the Registry, those of diverse ethnic backgrounds are able to join at no cost with the help of federal funding. For more information, potential registrants can visit miblood.org or call (616) 233-8555.

ABC TV 12 picked up Josh's story.

ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Article originally appeared on Michigan Blood (http://www.miblood.org/).
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