News: USARC officer raises bone marrow donor awareness
Story by Timothy Hale
FORT BRAGG, N.C. – According to Department of Defense officials, more than 30,000 children and adults in the United States are diagnosed each year with leukemia or other blood disorders.
Of those, more than 500 have ties to the military.
Capt. Don Fontaine, an aviation officer from Houston and assigned to the U.S. Army Reserve Command headquarters at Fort Bragg, N.C., knows all too well how these illnesses can affect military families.
Fontaine’s 9-year-old nephew, Aaron Fontaine, was diagnosed in June with juvenile xanthogranuloma, or JXG. Patients with JXG can have lesions on the skin, in the eye, bones, bone marrow, and internal organs.
“It’s not leukemia and it’s not cancer, but it’s right in that same family,” Fontaine said. “The ultimate goal is once they get him to a healthy state, they are going to do a bone marrow transplant.”
Fontaine said he felt “helpless” because he lives here in North Carolina and his nephew lives in Houston.
He said chemotherapy has not helped so far. His nephew has also received multiple transfusions, so Fontaine said he thought about pursuing that avenue which led him to the Fort Bragg Blood Donation Center. Through the center, he found the C.W. Bill Young Department of Defense Marrow Donor Center in Maryland.
According to their website, the center was established to meet the needs of the military.
Individuals who donate DNA samples through the DOD program join the National Marrow Donor Program registry.
The donation process is relatively quick and painless.
After signing a consent form, the prospective donors swab the inside of their own mouths with four buccal swabs. The swabs collect DNA from the inside of a donor’s cheek. The swabs are then placed onto a card, placed in an envelope, and sent off for registration.
“I have wanted to do the bone marrow donation but I really didn’t know how,” said Regina Cimino, a regular blood donor from the Fort Bragg Legal Office. “It was very simple. I thought they would have to do something major. It was very easy.”
Once in the NMDP computer systems, marrow transplant medical teams can search the registry looking for suitable donors.
“The idea was I wanted to do this in my nephew’s honor and to raise awareness in the local area,” Fontaine said. “We all get so caught up in our own lives and taking care of us but we’re all human beings and we have to take care of each other. It’s a swab. It can’t hurt that bad. Right?”
For more information about the C.W. Bill Young Department of Defense Marrow Donor Center, visit http://www.dodmarrow.org.