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‘Be the Match’

City staff sign organ donor registry

By Angie Landsverk

The city of Waupaca’s latest wellness challenge was about helping others.

Thirteen employees signed up to join Be The Match during an April 13 donor registry drive, at the Waupaca Recreation Center.

“Most employees who fell within the range of 18-44 stepped up and got on the registry,” said Andrew Whitman, the city of Waupaca’s recreation programmer,

The National Marrow Donor Program operates the Be The Match Registry.

The program is a nonprofit organization that works to create an opportunity for patients to receive a marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant when they need it.

Every three minutes, a person is diagnosed with a blood cancer, and 70 percent of the patients who need a marrow transplant do not have a matching donor in their family.

Those who register do a cheek swab, with their tissue type then being added to the registry.

After someone joins the registry, more testing is done if that person becomes a match for a patient.

Be The Match focuses on recruiting new registry members in the 18 to 44 age group.

That is because medical research shows younger donors are best for patients and provide the greatest chance for transplant success.

Those between age 45 and 60 may join the marrow registry online and are asked to make a $100 payment to cover the cost of joining.

Sarah Smith, a community engagement representative at Appleton’s Community Blood Center, walked the city employees through the registration process.

“It really makes you a believer when you talk to someone whose life has been saved by this,” she said.

Whitman contacted Smith about holding a donor registry drive for city employees.

He did so after hearing about a University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh football player who registered and ended up saving the life of a young girl.

“I definitely wanted to incorporate it into one of our monthly challenges,” he said.

Whitman took over the role of the city’s wellness coordinator the beginning of this year.

“Part of our goals are not to only be leaders in wellness as city employees but to be leaders in the community,” he said.

Whitman wants to raise awareness about blood cancers and encourage people to sign up for Be The Match.

They may do so at bethematch.org and also at two upcoming donor registry drives.

The first one will be from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, April 29, at Trinity Lutheran Church, in Waupaca.

The other registry drive will be on Tuesday, May 16, at ThedaCare Medical Center-Waupaca.

Justin Berrens, Waupaca’s director of public works, was among those who signed up during the city’s registry drive.

“I did this because it is for a good cause,” he said. “Andrew set it up. I want to support other city employees.”

Berrens has donated blood and plasma and said he is on the organ registry list.

He said 90 percent of the Public Works employees eligible to register did so last week.

Whitman said, “It’s more than just a wellness challenge. It’s about being able to help somebody. There are people in our community who have gone through this or are going through it.”

Dr. Dan Sutton is someone who has needed transfusions.

A family practice physician at ThedaCare Physicians-Waupaca, Sutton was diagnosed with leukemia last June.

Sutton spent a month at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Appleton. He received chemotherapy treatments and blood transfusions.

That was followed by four more cycles of consolidated chemotherapy and more blood transfusions.

Sutton speaks to the importance of blood donations and also to signing up for the donor registry.

“It helped me. It helps lots of people,” he said of blood donations.

Sutton returned to work on Feb. 6 and is now doing five days of outpatient chemotherapy treatment.

He typically works for about two weeks and then receives the treatment.

“Dan went through the standard regimen. Now they are trying different chemo, because he is not in full remission,” said his wife, Tina Pike.

Sutton hopes to avoid needing a stem cell transplant.

He encourages people to join Be The Match.

“If you go to one of the drives, you join an international registry,” Sutton said. “You could help a local person, but potentially someone from throughout the world.”

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