Thursday, May 29, 2008

Friends reach out for cancer patient


Friends and relatives of Mark Bartholomew, a well-loved Carpinteria resident with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL), will host a donor drive on Sunday in order to find a match for a desperately needed bone marrow transplant.

Doctors originally diagnosed Bartholomew with Low Grade Lymphoma, a cancer that responds relatively well to chemotherapy, but when the illness changed to CLL, Bartholomew’s long-time friend Ellie Priestman decided to find him a marrow donor by teaming up with the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP), which keeps a registry of all donors and patients in need of transplants.
“When the doctors told us he had [CLL], I told Mark, ‘I am doing a bone marrow drive for you,’” Priestman said.
At Sunday’s event, which will last from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., potential donors must fill out a questionnaire and take a test that will determine whether or not they meet the health criteria and match with anyone seeking a transplant. If someone is a match, that person will receive a call instructing them to go to the nearest bone marrow facility.

Unsuccessful so far
Bartholomew’s friends have sent over 450 letters asking for help from individuals and organizations, but the search for a compatible marrow contributor has not yet yielded great success. Finding a marrow donor is an extremely difficult process for many reasons, including the fact that it is, as Priestman said, “like matching DNA.”
“There are patients who have been in the registry for 15 years and never been called” with news of a suitable donor, she said.
Another factor, she said, is that many people are uninformed about the donation process and the need for marrow.
“I talked to one lady who said, ‘I can’t afford to lose a whole week of work for a donation,’ and I said, ‘It only takes two hours.’ … It’s a lot less complicated than people think, and you may be saving a life,” she said.
Some people may, for fear of the pain of taking a needle to the pelvic bone, resist the call to provide the necessary material. However, donors will be sedated and any discomfort following the procedure will fade away after a few days, according to Priestman.
“What I’ve heard people say is that it will feel like you fell off your bike onto your tailbone,” she said. “Or like you fell while on your snowboard.”
Bartholomew, his wife Marianne, and Ellie Priestman are members of the Lions Club in Carpinteria. Mark has also run his own business – Hi-Mark Nursery – there since 1977.
Though the focus of the event is to find Mark a match for a transplant, the NMDP will take any contributions of marrow and/or money people are willing to give. There is an especially high demand for donations from ethnic minorities.
To register, contact Holly Collier at or call (800)627-7692.

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