Earlier this month, the Ross Medical Education Center campus in Port Huron, Michigan hosted Caitlin Reagan from Be the Match and Michigan Blood. Mary Jo Jobbitt, Clinic Medical Assistant Instructor, commented that Caitlin is a great informational speaker. From the moment Caitlin steps into the room, the passion she shares for the work Michigan Blood and Be the Match is made evident. In fact, she is passionate about anything that helps to improve the lives and hope for those fighting cancer and disease.
To further prove her commitment to health, Caitlin arrived wearing a hat form the organization Love Your Melon. Love your Melon was founded by two college students in an entrepreneurship classroom at the University of St. Thomas. Friends Zach and Brian began donating hats to children with cancer. They live by the philosophy that every child battling cancer should be given a hat. Love Your Melon ambassadors dress up like superheroes and deliver the hats to children in facilities all over the country.
To further increase Love Your Melon’s impact on childhood cancer, the organization has teamed up with CureSearch for Children’s Cancer, an organization that funds childhood cancer research and the Pinky Swear Foundation who provide financial support to the families with children battling cancer. Fifty percent of all proceeds are split equally with the two organizations. Be the Match and Love Your Melon have joined forces in the fight against blood cancer with limited editions of reversible hats and caps. These limited edition Be the Match + Love Your Melon beanies can be purchased from the Love Your Melon Website.
Caitlin began her presentation with a short documentary about Lola DeYoung, a 10 year old girl from Grandville, Michigan who has battled B Cell Leukemia three times in the last four years. After traditional treatments failed and she had a third relapse, Lola’s doctors turned to Be the Match. Lola had been looking for her “unicorn” match. Due to a rare genetic marker, finding a donor has proven difficult. Be the Match has partnerships with international and cooperative registries providing doctors with access to nearly 24.5 million potential donors and more than 622,000 cord blood units worldwide.
Harbor Life Church where Lola attends in her hometown conducted a registry drive where more than 700 new people were added to the registry in hopes of finding Lola’s “unicorn.” Lola has a younger sister who is not a match. Caitlin explained this is the case the majority of the time. In fact, 70% of the time family members will not be a match. Be the Match will begin with immediate family including siblings and first cousins. Anyone outside of the immediate blood line has no better chance to be a match than a complete stranger. As chance would have it, a donor was found for Lola. Once Lola reaches her one year anniversary cancer free she will be considered completely cured.
Caitlin explained the registration and donation process. She asked that anyone interested be sure they fully understand the commitment they are making. She reviewed the cheek swab and reasons you may be excluded from joining the registry. Once on the registry, you remain so until you ask to be removed or you reach your 61st birthday. After joining the registry, one in 30 are asked to have further testing done, one in 300 may be selected as a best match and will have further testing done to determine if they will be a donor, but only one in 540 actually are chosen to donate. Age and ancestry are two factors that play into being a match. Your tissue typing is inherited from your ancestry. Patients are most likely to match someone of their own race or ethnicity. People of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds are especially needed on the registry so that every patient has a chance for a cure. Doctors prefer donors in the age group of 18-44 for the greatest chance of transplant success. There are two methods of donation: PBSC and bone marrow. The patient’s doctor will choose which one is best for the patient.
Caitlin presented to the morning classes in both the Medical Assistant program and the Medical Insurance Billing and Office Administration program. She returned in the evening to speak to the evening Medical Assistant class. Because of her presentation and stories, 22 students signed up to be placed on the registry during Caitlin’s visit. Caitlin plans to return to the Ross Port Huron campus in August.