Kathy Schiffer is a Catholic blogger. In addition to her blog Seasons of Grace, her articles have appeared in the National Catholic Register, Aleteia, Zenit, the Michigan Catholic, Legatus Magazine, and other Catholic publications. She’s worked for Catholic and other Christian ministries since 1988, as radio producer, director of special events and media relations coordinator. Kathy and her husband, Deacon Jerry Schiffer, have three adult children.
When a Texas mother of three was diagnosed with blood cancer, things didn’t look good. Because of her disease, her bone marrow – the spongy tissue inside the bones of the body, including hip and thigh bones – no longer functioned effectively to produce the healthy blood cells she needed to survive.
She was going to die – until, that is, Bishop Michael Mulvey, bishop of Corpus Christi, Texas, stepped in to help. Bishop Mulvey, who had registered years earlier as a blood marrow donor, was a perfect match for the woman. Be the Match, the nonprofit organization which maintains a national blood marrow registry, arranged for the bishop to travel to San Antonio to undergo a peripheral stem cell donation. As a result of his selfless gift, the young mother's life was saved.
Some years earlier, as a young priest serving in Austin, Texas, Father Mulvey had registered with Be The Match, the national registry to help patients with blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma. The South Texas Catholic interviewed Bishop Mulvey recently regarding his decision to add his name to the registry. “When I was assigned in Austin years ago,” he explained,
“...one of our very charitable and active parishioners was signing up people for Be the Match. I appreciated her commitment and dedication to this cause, and after hearing more about the registry, I signed up.”
The South Texas Catholic explained the impact of Bishop Mulvey's generous choice:
His decision to dedicate his bone marrow proved to be a moment that would resonate not only in his life but also, in the life he would save. As it happened, Bishop Mulvey was a perfect match for a woman with young children who had a form of blood cancer. After being contacted by Be the Match, arrangements were made for the bishop to go to San Antonio and undergo a peripheral stem cell donation, which saved the woman’s life.
According to Bishop Mulvey, going through this procedure to help another person was a humbling experience. “Knowing that because of the life I have been given by God – I was able to give back and make a big difference in this person’s life, in the life of her children and her family is something I have thought of quite often,” he said.
How Does Be The Match Bring Together Patients and Donors?
Be The Match's registry helps to bring together patients with blood disorders and registered donors who have been identified by means of a tissue sample. In most cases, patients will be matched to a donor with a similar ethnic background. Because only 30% of patients have a fully matched donor in their family, most sufferers with blood diseases depend on the organization to identify an unrelated donor. In all, more than 20 million people have registered as potential blood stem cell donors on U.S. and global registries. In 2018, Be The Match facilitated nearly 6,200 successful transplants; since the organization's founding in 1987, they have matched more than 92,000 patients with donors.
If you are at some point found to be a match for a patient with a blood disorder, you may be asked to donate in one of two ways:
- About 77% of the time, a patient's doctor requests a PBSC donation, a nonsurgical, outpatient procedure similar to donating platelets or plasma.
- About 23% of the time, a patient’s doctor requests marrow, a surgical, outpatient procedure that takes place at a hospital. General or regional anesthesia is always used.
You Can Help!
The process has become easier in recent years, because individuals can sign up via smartphone.
If you'd like to sign up with Be The Match in the hope of saving a life in the future, text CURECC to 61474 or visit the link join.bethematch.org/curecc.