Bone marrow donations dropping because of pandemic

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This year, blood donations dropped because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, some cancer patients are waiting to be matched with a bone marrow donor.

The organization, DKMS, says up to 15,000 people are awaiting a bone marrow transplant for treatment of blood cancers like leukemia. Leukemia often affects children, but Tait Cruse was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia earlier this year. Cruse is the father of Connor Cruse, who died from cancer in 2009; his parents started TeamConnor in his name to raise money for pediatric cancer research.

"I've been on both sides of the aisle, now, as a father of a child who went through 200 nights in the hospital, 18 rounds of chemo, 18 rounds of radiation, nine surgeries, and he passed away our and a half years later," Tait Cruse says. "It just drives me to raise awareness and dollars. Sitting in a cancer ward with children, and now adults, talk about giving you purpose."

Cruse has been going through treatment but will need a bone marrow transplant before he is considered in remission. Most patients do not have a match in their family, which has led to the waiting list.

"There are 15,000 people out there," he says. "I'm at Medical City, and there's a little girl here right now, four years old, she's been waiting and waiting for a donor."

Cruse hopes the story of his son can show others the importance of donating bone marrow. His family and the TeamConnor foundation are hosting a virtual bone marrow drive.

Through Sunday, people can sign up as a donor and DKMS will send a kit to the donor's address along with a postage-paid envelope. The donor will then use a cheek swab to collect a sample and send it back to be added to a database to donate.

"It's not painful to donate. They're not going to go in there and chop a piece of bone off your hip," Cruse says. "It's a simple blood draw, where they remove the stem cells."

Bone marrow donations have dropped because of the pandemic; DKMS says someone in the United States is diagnosed with blood cancer every 27 seconds. Only 30% of patients find a donor within their family.

"There's an extreme shortage of blood, plasma and platelets right now because of COVID," Cruse says. "It's the same with research. Most of these cancer researchers are parked right now. Everything hit a stop button this year."