Wednesday, December 2, 2009/lk
GRANDVIEW - Grandview's Thelma Romero is gearing up to take on the role of ambassador.
Romero is raising awareness about bone marrow failure diseases during Aplastic Anemia and MDS Awareness Week Dec. 1 - 7.
Romero's daughter, seventh grader Josie Wacenske, suffers from aplistic anemia and has been in a relapse state of the disease for two years. Romero's hoping that by raising awareness, she can educate and encourage the public to donate bone marrow.
Romero has spearheaded a bone marrow drive and fundraising bake sale for this coming Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Grandview Market Place, Romero's employer.
Romero said her daughter is currently taking medication for the disease. "She can only be on the medicine so long," she said. "They're tapering her off. She'll show some response, then hit a bump in the road."
Romero said the medication her daughter takes causes cancer and she'd rather her daughter have a bone marrow transplant-and sooner rather than later. In the medical community, Romero believes, "They wait for you to get worse, then they transplant you. We're trying to work around that."
One particular challenge is that Wacenske is part Indian, Polish and Hispanic, which makes finding a donor all the more difficult. And Romero's concern is that myths about donating blood marrow abound. "A lot of people think it involves chemotherapy," she said.
It doesn't, according to Cristina Klatovsky of Inland Northwest Blood Center, who said a common way to collect bone marrow from a donor is through the peripheral blood stem cell collection method.
In that situation, the donor is given a medication for five days that increases stem cell production. If the donor is from the Yakima Valley, the donor goes to Spokane on the fifth day and a machine collects blood from one arm, separates stem cells from the blood, and puts blood back into the donor's body through the other arm.
"Is marrow extraction painful? Absolutely. Is that how we collect marrow from donors today? No," said Klatovsky.
Of patients who donate via the peripheral blood stem cell method she said, "Most report during the donation they're sitting bored out of their minds in a chair."
Klatovsky said she knows of six patients in the valley that are in need of finding a donor match. "I've got six and I don't know of everybody. Some are urgent, some are stable.
"It can happen to anybody. It's a nasty lottery, one you don't want to win."
Of those who sign up for the registry, only one in 4,000 will be called to donate, she said. "I've been on the registry 12 years and I've never been called."
Wacenske has had aplastic anemia since she was three. "She is only one of thousands of patients who suffer from life threatening diseases that may be cured by a marrow transplant," Klavotsky said.
Romero has enlisted the help of roughly a dozen family and friends to help make fresh baked goods for this Saturday's event.
In fact, Romero said, "I'm hoping for more than that." She added that the baking will take place on Thursday and Friday. "I want everything to be fresh!"
Romero said she believes her job at Grandview Market Place is an ideal way to raise awareness about bone marrow failure diseases, and also a way to encourage people to donate.
"Working with the public, I get to talk about it," she said. "I wear a pin, so people also ask about it."
Romero said she's not just raising awareness for her daughter's sake.
"There are other people searching for bone marrow in the Yakima Valley," she said. "She's not the only one."