*According to ABC’s “Good Morning America,” the response to Robin Robert’s announcement that she was suffering from myelodysplastic syndrome, or MDS, a rare syndrome also known as preleukemia, and needed a bone marrow transplant, has been tremendous.  “Good Morning America” broadcast that registration with the National Marrow Donor Program had gone up 1000 percent in the two days following the Robert’s announcement.

“In a typical day the registry receives 200 to 300 registrations.  In the 48 hours following the Robin Robert’s announcement 3,500 people joined,” said Kirsten Lesak-Greenberg of the National Marrow Donor Program’s (NMDP) Be The Match Registry.

I signed up with the National Marrow Donor Program four years ago. I was in the Baldwin Hills Shopping Mall in Los Angeles and there was a health fair going on.  A nice, young African-American man approached me and asked if I would sign up.  It’s a very easy, simple process.  It was just a swab of the inside of the cheek with a q-tip.  There was no cost and I was finished in about five minutes.   If memory serves me right, this occurred about a month or so after I had watched the local news and learned about the plight of a beautiful young black girl who desperately needed a bone marrow transplant. I also remembered that back in 1996 former California Angels (now Los Angeles Angels) star Rod Carew’s daughter needed a bone marrow transplant.  Unfortunately she was unlucky and a match was never found. She died at the ripe young age of 18.

There are a total of 10 million donors registered with the National Marrow Donor Program’s (NMDP) Be The Match Registry. Of that 10 million, there are only, only 685,000 African Americans, about 7 percent compared to 6.8 million white donors or 71 percent. This means that African Americans receive transplants from the National Marrow Registry at a rate of about 3 to 4 percent of the time compared to a rate of 85 to 88 percent for Caucasians. The numbers for Native Hawaiian and Native American/Alaskans are even more dismal.

Since Robert’s is African American, I contacted the National Bone Marrow Program to find out how many African Americans had signed up since her announcement.  Lesak-Greenberg informed me that out of the 3500 only 386, or about 11 percent, African Americans signed up within the four days following the Robert’s announcement..

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