Athena Asklipiadis is the director Mixed Marrow, and I met her at the Mixed Roots Film and Literary Festival. I wanted to know more about Mixed Marrow and asked her to answer a few questions. Enjoy!
1. What is Mixed Marrow?
Mixed Marrow is an outreach program affiliated with A3M that recruits for the Be The Match, national US registry. It concentrates on this specific demographic to help bring awareness to the lack of minority and mixed race donors. Due to ethnicity playing a large role in matching, it is necessary that ethnic communities come together to help this cause. Mixed Marrow is the only outreach currently dedicated to multiethnic donors.
2. Why is it important for people of mixed race to register?
It is important for all people to register as a donor, but especially for minorities and mixed race. The number of donors are severely lacking in those areas and with a rise in those communities in the coming years, this issue will only worsen. Multiracials are the fastest growing demographic in the US, UK and many other countries so this is a world issue we need to work together on mending. Matching depends on patients and donors having similar tissue typing and ethnicity plays a large role in that since the matching is based on inherited cell markers. When a person is of two or more races, the probability of finding a match is more difficult because of the low numbers of diverse donors in the registry. 30% of the registry are minorities and 3% of that are mixed race. But the 3% represents ALL mixture combinations.
3. What happens during registration?
During registration the potential donor completes an application including a general health questionnaire and personal information. Then we take saliva samples with cheek swabs. And just like that a person can now be a future life saver! The information and samples are then sent to a laboratory for testing and the information gets imputed into a database. If a patient needing a match at that time or some time in the future matches the information of the donor, they will be contacted and will be further tested to see if it is a perfect match.
4. Has the number of mixed donors grown since Mixed Marrow started its campaign?
Yes. In 2007, more than 30,000 – or 7 percent – of potential donors who joined the Be The Match Registry identified themselves as multiple race. In 2010, more than 65,000 – or 9 percent – of potential donors who joined the Be The Match Registry identified themselves as multiple race.
5. What else would you like to tell Honeysmoke readers about Mixed Marrow?
It is so simple to save a life. We have all at one time known someone who has been affected by cancer or other life-threatening diseases. To know there are some that can be completely cured with the help of a stranger is nothing short of a miracle. The challenge is getting that idea across to people and convincing the public to overcome their fears and be a little selfless for another human being. I always tell people who seem unsure, “imagine if it were your mom/brother/cousin/friend who was dying, wouldn’t you hope that their match (wherever they may be) were signed up and willing to save their life?” Sometimes we need to imagine the sick people awaiting donors are our own loved ones because they are somebody’s.
Mixed Marrow has concentrated on awareness as the first tool to solving the problem. We have worked hard to try and partner with many multiracial orgs and gain their support on this issue. We have also been present at most of the large multiracial/multicultural events across the country and hosted drives sharing our cause with our community and registering more donors.