Community signs up for Bone Marrow Registry for Valley woman

Community signs up for Bone Marrow Registry for Valley woman

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - We asked and you responded.  Nearly 400 people from all over the country have signed up for the Be The Match Bone Marrow Registry in honor of Valley resident Pam Johnston.

We told you about Johnston's battle with a rare form of  Leukemia and Lymphoma last week.  With each new potential donor signing up, she is that much closer to finding a match that will save her life.

Monday over 65 people came out to Palm Springs for the first of two Bone Marrow Registry Drives for Johnston.    

"It's a great way to help somebody," said Corona resident Cindy Chavez.

To sign up, all people ages 18 to 44 have to do is fill out a form and hand over your DNA.

"Just a swab of the cheek, that's great, you didn't have to prick your finger like when you give blood," said Marissa Gastel, who signed up during the drive.

"It takes no more than 10 minutes," said Chavez.

Doctors diagnosed 37-year-old Johnston with a rare form of leukemia and lymphoma in November.

"The only thing that can save her life, is a bone marrow transplant," said City of Hope community outreach specialist, Joyce Valdez.

None of Johnston's relatives matched, that's why she turned to the National Registry.

"You are essentially trying to match someone of your same in layman terms, your same DNA, so that is why it's hard to find matches," said Valdez. 

Scott Koreski turned out to be a perfect match for his sister 35 years ago. 

"I just got lucky and I was a perfect match and she is alive and thriving today," said Koreski.

If you happen to be a match to Pam or anybody else that needs bone marrow, the process of donating is easier than ever before

"From what I did 35 years ago, they drilled into your hips and took the bone marrow out," said Koreski.

Now most patients only need stem cells, and that's donated much like how you donate blood. 

"It's very simple, both are out patient procedures you are in in the morning and are out by that afternoon," said Valdez.

It's also free.  City of Hope and Be The Match fund raise to not only pay the $100 testing fee to get on the registry, but also the costs to donate. 

"There is no cost to the donor if you are called as a match, we try to make it as easy for the donor as possible," said Valdez.

Now 48, Koreski's too old to join the registry but wants to encourage others to do so before it's too late. 

"I couldn't imagine knowing that I didn't take a chance to help someone else out, I couldn't imagine that, take a little time out of your day to help someone out," said Koreski. 

Cindy Chavez drover her daughters from Corona Monday just to sign up for Pam.  

"I worked with her mother-in-law for a few years and she is sweet as can be," said Chavez.

Chavez is too old to sign up, but her daughters aren't.

"I am proud of them, I asked them specifically because one of them is very afraid of any shots or needles I said it doesn't involve a shot or needle and it is a great easy process to go through to save somebody's life," said Chavez.

"I'm an organ donor as well, so if this body can do something for someone else that's totally great," said Marissa Gastel.

"We decided to make a day of it, it took ten minutes, it's a great way to help somebody," said Chavez.

Normally it takes 3 to 4 months to process your kit to get on the registry, but because Pam needs help now, everyone who signs up in honor of Pam will be processed in two to three weeks. 

A second drive is being held Tuesday, January 28 at Santa Barbara Business College from 10am to 2pm and then again from 6pm to 8pm.

It is free and you do have to be between the ages of 18 and 44 to sign up.  If you are not eligible but would still like to help click here.      

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