How to help
Anyone interested in more information on Kimura’s SAM movement or in registering to become a donor online can visit sharingamericasmarrow.com.
Sam Kimura of Kentucky was 17 years old when she was diagnosed with severe aplastic anemia. She was told she needed a bone marrow transplant to cure the form of blood cancer.
Often, siblings are the best match for a bone marrow transplant, but her sister, Alex Kimura wasn’t.
She had to search the National Bone Marrow Donor Registry in the hopes of finding a person whose tissue matched hers out of millions signed up.
Four years later, she hasn’t found one.
Luckily for Kimura, an alternative treatment was available (she’s now in remission), but that’s not true for many others.
Being diagnosed with different types of blood cancer without a second option was true for five family members of faculty at Otwell Middle School. Only one survived.
The school teamed up with Kimura’s grassroots effort, Sharing America’s Marrow, or SAM, to register 50,000 bone marrow donors in 2015. SAM held a registration event at Otwell on Tuesday even though class was canceled due to winter weather.
“Often, it’s the one person in the world who can save that person’s life,” said Kimura of the importance of registering as many people as possible.
She said about 15,000 people need a bone marrow transplant every year. Less than half find their match.
Celeste Husted, a seventh-grade math teacher at Otwell, lost her father from acute myeloid leukemia eight years after he received a transplant from his brother.
“It’s a chance to save lives,” she said of the 50-state trek the Kimura sisters and their friend, Taylor Shorten, are taking to find donors. “It’s such an easy thing to do.”
Kimura said a myth that the transplant is painful is often not true. About 75 percent of the time it can be done by taking a stem cell sample, which is like giving plasma. The rest of the time donors go through an out-patient procedure.
Of the 50,000-donor goal, they have registered 3,329 (heroes, as the three girls call them) so far this year.
Emily Harrison, a seventh-grade ELA teacher at Otwell, saw her husband survive non-Hodgkin t-cell lymphoma after receiving a transplant.
The father of Pete Sagona, who works in connections, passed away from leukemia after he was deemed ineligible for the transplant due to age.
Pam Knox, a bookkeeper, and Jennifer Rupured, an eighth-grade ELA teacher, both had parents pass away because they were too old for the procedure.