Marie Grim of Langley (left) and sister-in-law, Tania Grim, take a break from a recent trip to Vancouver General Hospital to visit False Creek. Marie has launched a drive to find stem cell donors for other leukemia patients like Tania, who will receive her donation in September. Photo supplied

Drive for stem cell donors in Langley

Sister-in-law aims to pay it forward by helping improve the odds for other families

Marie Grim of Langley is looking for 100 people between the ages of 17 and 35 who are willing to take a few moments to have their cheeks swabbed.

“There’s no pain, no fuss,” she said.

And you could save someone’s life, anywhere in the world.

“You could match with someone in Japan.”

The campaign to sign up more potential stem cell donors, people who are willing to allow DNA samples to be taken using cotton swabs, was inspired by the experience of her sister-in-law.

Cloverdale resident Tania Grim, a mother of four was diagnosed with leukemia in January.

She had to wait several months before a compatible donor was found whose stem cells will be used to replace bone marrow and abnormal white blood cells eradicated by chemotherapy and radiation.

“We have been on quite the journey,” Marie said.

“I have sat with her at appointments and heard others get news of their donor while she had not.”

Now that Tania has her donor, Marie would like to improve the odds for other families.

She already has a location and tentative date to collect the swabs — Sept. 8 at Immanuel Christian Reformed Church in Langley — if she can round up enough donors.

Tania, who is preparing for her stem cell procedure in September, urged prospective stem cell contributors to sign up.

“I am so grateful that the word is being spread about the huge need for donors,” Tania said.

“It is a very simple thing to do that can save a life.”

If you are the right age to be a donor, you can contact Marie at 604-530-1326 or by email at mariegrim@hotmail.com.

Interested donors can also contact Canadian Blood Services directly at https://blood.ca/en.

More than 390,000 Canadians have joined the OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network registry maintained by Canadian Blood Services, volunteering to be stem cell donors for any patient in need of a transplant, anywhere in the world.

Right now, the agency says about 70 per cent of eligible donors on the registry are Caucasian, which means the odds of finding matches for other ethnicities, such as Canadians with indigenous, Asian or African heritage, are not good.

The Canadian registry connects to an international network established by the World Marrow Donor Association (WMDA) that has access to over 28 million donors in over 53 countries.

“Not everyone who registers will be matched to a patient and asked to donate, but each registrant provides hope for those waiting,” a message posted to the agency website states.

“A person could … be a match within a few months of registering, a year later or even seven years later.”

If a volunteer donor is found to be a match, they face a relatively minor surgical procedure and can expect to make a quick recovery.

The agency says over 80 diseases and disorders can be treated with a stem cell transplant.

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