November 09, 2009
Five years after receiving a life-saving bone marrow transplant, 25-year-old Mark Schuh of Eau Claire, Wis., will finally meet the man who saved his life: Guy Miller of Mobile, Ala. The donor and recipient, along with their families, will be introduced for the first time on Nov. 7 at the National Marrow Donor Program’s® (NMDP) 22nd Annual Council Meeting at the Hilton in Minneapolis.
Mark was a recent high school graduate when he suffered a relapse of leukemia and learned he would need a bone marrow transplant to survive. In 2004, he received his transplant and has been free of the disease since then. Schuh graduated from college this year with a business degree.
“Our family is so grateful to Guy Miller for his gracious gift to Mark, and meeting him will be a special moment,” said Marcia Schuh, Mark’s mother. “We also deeply appreciate the NMDP for providing the resources that made his procedure possible.”
Mark’s doctors turned to the Be The Match RegistrySM to find an unrelated donor after testing showed no one in his family matched his tissue type. In fact, only 30 percent of transplant patients find matches within their families.
Guy, 46, had joined the Be The Match Registry in the early 1990s, prompted by a friend’s search for a suitable donor to help battle her leukemia. Sadly, his friend passed away. When Guy found out he was a match for another leukemia patient – Mark – he immediately called his friend’s family with the news.
“They were really excited,” Guy recalled. “And I was glad I had signed up for the registry. Just the knowledge that you can share a life with someone else is bigger than all of us.”
Future transplant patients may also benefit from Guy’s donation to Mark. Guy donated bone marrow to Mark, but the blood-forming stem cells used in transplants can also be extracted from circulating blood in a procedure called peripheral blood stem cell collection (PBSC). Guy and Mark agreed to be part of a research study to compare marrow and PBSC transplants to see if one works better than the other in transplantation or if there are similar results.
The study also will compare physical side effects of the two procedures on donors, and how the two donation experiences affect the daily life of donors. The NMDP and its partners in the Blood and Marrow Transplant Clinical Trials Network (BMT CTN) are sponsoring the randomized, multi-center trials involving 550 patient and donor pairs from almost 40 medical centers.
"The ultimate goal is to provide guidance to physicians so they can make decisions to provide the best outcome for the patient," said Dr. Dennis Confer, NMDP chief medical officer. "There will be some diseases where either bone marrow transplants or PBSC may provide the better quality-of-life result, and through our research, we hope to help more patients live longer, healthier lives."
About the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP)
The National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) is a not-for-profit organization entrusted to operate the C.W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program created by Congress in 2005. As a leader in the field of marrow and cord blood transplantation, the NMDP manages the Be The Match Registry, facilitates transplants worldwide, conducts research to help transplant recipients live longer, healthier lives, and provides education to patients and health care professionals. The NMDP is dedicated to creating an opportunity for all patients to receive the transplant therapy they need. Since operations began in 1987, the NMDP has provided more than 35,000 transplants to help give patients a second chance at life. For more information, visit www.BeTheMatch.org or call 1 (800) MARROW-2.