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CMU Student Athlete, Derrick Nash, Needs Bone Marrow Transplant

Be The Match® Registry events looking to add potential donors and diversity


SAGINAW, Mich. (November 6, 2014) – You could be the key to saving the life of Derrick Nash.

Nash, a standout high school football player, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia during his senior year at Carrollton High School in May 2013. Doctors expected a lengthy hospital stay, but Nash quickly responded to treatment and was in remission within a month.

Thanks to his remarkable turnaround, his dream of playing college football was realized this spring when he suited up at Central Michigan University’s Spring game. All was right in Nash’s world, and he was preparing to play for CMU this fall when he started to feel ill. At first it didn’t seem like much, but in October when his sickness persisted, doctors discovered the leukemia had returned.

Now facing his second bout with leukemia, Nash and his doctors are set to call a new play. In addition to more chemotherapy, Nash is hoping to receive a lifesaving bone marrow transplant. But despite his willingness, finding a matching donor can be a difficult task.

“Seventy percent of people who need a transplant will not have a match in their family and will turn to Be The Match to find a lifesaving donor,” says Caitlin Regan, stem cell recruitment specialist for Michigan Blood. “Patients are most likely to find a match in someone of their same ethnic background and currently, the registry is comprised of almost 70 percent Caucasian donors. Therefore, it’s extremely important for us to continue to increase the size and diversity of the registry to improve all patients’ chance for a cure.”

Michigan Blood’s Marrow/Stem Cell Program, an affiliate of the National Marrow Donor Program's Be The Match Registry, recruits potential donors for patients across the country and around the world who need bone marrow or stem cell transplants. With every new potential donor, the chance of a match for thousands of patients with leukemia, lymphoma, and other blood diseases improves.

To help increase Nash’s chances of finding a match, Michigan Blood’s Be The Match program is holding registry events in his honor at CMU and in Saginaw. Individuals between the age 18 and 44 can join the
Be The Match Registry simply by filling out a health questionnaire and providing a cheek swab.

“Help someone get their transplant and make them feel whole again,” says Nash, who has been a Michigan Blood advocate since his original diagnosis.

The first registry event will take place Saturday, Nov. 15 at the CMU football game in front of the main entrance to Kelly/Shorts Stadium. The football team will be wearing orange ribbons in honor of leukemia awareness. The second registry event is Wednesday, Nov. 19 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Ames United Methodist Church, 801 State in Saginaw. Everyone who registers at the Saginaw drive will receive an “I’m Fighting With Derrick” button courtesy of the Carrollton Athletic Association and a special treat from Macy’s Lakeshore Grill. The third event is set for Thursday, Nov. 20 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at different locations on CMU’s campus. Tables will be located in the lobbies of East Campus residence halls (Fabiano, Woldt, Emmons, Saxe, Herrig and Celani), in the Health Professions building, and Park Library. An additional location will be available from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Student Activity Center.

“Although these registry drives are being held in Derrick’s honor, it’s important to remember that when members of the community volunteer to join the registry, they’re making themselves available to any patient searching for a donor,” says Regan.

While donors of all types help save lives, there is a serious shortage of potential donors who represent ethnic minorities. For Nash’s drives, organizers are seeking African-Americans in particular to support the effort.

“A diverse group of prospective donors will give more transplant candidates a better chance to find matches,” says Regan. “A marrow transplant is often a patient’s last and best chance for survival. Plain and simple, it saves lives.”

For additional information about joining the Be The Match Registry, please visit http://www.miblood.org/be-the-match-registry.

About Michigan Blood
Founded in 1955, Michigan Blood is a fast growing, independent, non-profit blood bank headquartered in Grand Rapids. It provides blood products and services for more than 40 hospitals throughout Michigan and is an established leader in quality and service. Michigan Blood collects more than 120,000 units of blood each year at nine permanent donation sites and more than 3,700 mobile blood drives in 37 counties statewide. Michigan Blood has a nationally recognized stem cell (marrow) program and created Michigan’s first public cord blood bank. In addition, Michigan Blood provides therapeutic apheresis, cellular therapies for the treatment of cancer and transfusion medicine consultations. For more information, visit www.miblood.org.


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