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Photographer searches for bone marrow donor

Denver – Photographer Kevin O’Connell has been diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), a rare malignant disease of the bone marrow. O’Connell was diagnosed in early December and is currently being “typed” for a bone marrow transplant, the only potential cure for the disease, and being evaluated for pre-transplant treatment options.

MDS is a type of cancer in which the bone marrow does not produce enough cells. Some forms of MDS, including the form afflicting O’Connell, have a high likelihood of progressing to acute myeloid leukemia. The MDS foundation reports that 7,000 to 12,000 cases are diagnosed annually in the United States.

“Right now, our greatest hope is to find a matched donor”, says O’Connell’s wife, Madeleine. “Kevin’s only full sibling was not a match which means that there won’t be a match within the family”.

The chances of any one unrelated person being a perfect match for Kevin are extremely low, however, the there is an overwhelming need for donors. “If people register, they can save someone’s life.”

Today, the term “bone marrow transplant” is somewhat antiquated as the majority of transplants are now achieved by transferring cells harvested from the bloodstream. Collecting these cells from donors is a low-impact process, similar to donating blood.

For patients diagnosed with a fatal blood disorder, bone marrow transplantation is often their only chance of survival. Related donors provide suitable matches only 33% of the time. This leaves nearly 70% of the patients without a match. The need is especially critical in racial and ethnic minority groups.

Registering as a marrow donor is simple. A blood sample is all that is required to have your tissue type entered into the National Marrow Donor Program's (NMDP) Computerized Registry. If you are in good health and between the ages of 18 and 55, you can contact NMDP at 1-800-MARROW-2, or at www.marrow.org, they will send you additional information including the NMDP Center nearest to you. Umbilical cords are also used as a source for transplant cells. For information on donating umbilical cords can also be found at the NMPD. Information on MDS can be found at www.mds-foundation.org.