Wanted... one good donor
National unrelated bone marrow program holding first presentation of the year

Scott Crabbe
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Feb 11/00) - When Peter Arychuk holds a unrelated bone marrow presentation, it's done for far greater reasons than a simple community service.

"I was asked by the program because I was one of the few donors up here," Arychuk said.

"We couldn't find a match for our son (who had leukemia) and at the time (1997), there were four million people on the list."

There are now five million people on the international donor list, but many more are required.

"Right now 600 people in Canada are looking for bone marrow," Arychuk said.

"There are very few ethnic origins on the list and we want that to change. The more people involved the better the chances of people (in need) finding a match."

Bone marrow is a jelly-like substance found in the body's larger, hollow bones such as the hip, spine, ribs and sternum. It is an important function to the body because it produces all blood cells: red cells that carry oxygen, white cells that fight infection and platelets, which are involved in the process of clotting.

The most common disease requiring a bone marrow transplant is leukemia. Other diseases are aplastic anaemia and non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

Donors and patients are matched according to compatibility of their genetic antigens which are detected through a blood test.

"A six and six cell match has to be made before a donor can be found," Arychuk said.

Arychuk will be holding the first of four bone marrow presentations in Yellowknife on Feb. 15.

"The presentation lasts about 30 minutes, there's a video that goes along with it." Arychuk said.

"A week later, people who are interested can go to the hospital and give a blood sample."

Two vials of blood will be taken. One vial must be transported to Edmonton and processed within 24 hours, the other is frozen until further requirements are necessary.

"When the community gets together for a bone marrow clinic (held within communities when bone marrow is urgently needed by a patient), it's a very nice thing to do, but it can create a lot of problems." Arychuk said.

"The hospital can't process the blood fast enough within a 24 hour time span."

Arychuk says when no match was found for his son from the international list he decided to hold a clinic here.

Out of the 396 supporters who attended th clinic in 1997, 250 blood samples were taken. All other registrants were scheduled for blood testing throughout the following week. After this, too, failed to find a match Arychuk himself donated his marrow.

Despite the risk that his son's immune system would reject the marrow, the transplant was successful and he's now "110 per cent."

"On average there have been nine people attending the presentations. We would like to see that number go up to 20," Arychuk said.

The donating procedure is relatively simple. After a local anesthetic is applied, the physician inserts a needle into the pelvic bone and takes the marrow using a syringe.

"It's not a long or painful process," Arychuk said.

"When it's done it feels like you've been kicked really hard in the butt."

The bone marrow presentation begins at 7:00 p.m. and is being held on the second floor at the Air Tindi float base.

For more information contact Arychuk at Air Tindi.