When she was a 16-year-old high school student, Angela Coleman started feeling extremely fatigued. At the time, she was a student-athlete, playing lacrosse and juggling her studies, and she assumed these activities were taking a normal toll on her. Still, when she started to notice her body bruising more quickly, she and her mother became concerned and sought medical attention.
Her doctor ordered a series of blood tests. Coleman was told to go to A.I. duPont Hospital when the results were received. She was soon diagnosed with Paroxysmal Nocturnal Hemoglobinuria (PNH). PNH is a rare disease that results from a mutation in bone marrow stem cells. The condition is characterized by the destruction of red blood cells, blood clots, impaired bone marrow function, and the risk of developing leukemia.
Coleman needed to find a bone marrow donor but was unable to locate a match. She started a different type of treatment called immunosuppressant therapy, which stops the immune system from damaging healthy cells and tissues. This treatment is not successful for most patients, but for Coleman, it was.
“It was a stressful time,” she recalled. “I couldn’t go out, and it was awful. I was out of school for three months during my sophomore year.”
Now, Coleman’s goal is to increase the numbers of bone marrow and stem cell donors. She has organized a donor drive on March 9 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Bachmann lobby. Students and employees are encouraged to register via the national donor database sponsored by the Be The Match organization.
According to the Be The Match website, thousands of people are diagnosed with life-threatening blood diseases each year. Over the past 30 years, this non-profit organization, operated by the National Marrow Donor Program, has managed the most diverse marrow registry in the world.
A bone marrow or blood stem cell transplant may be the best chance for a cure for patients with life-threatening blood disorders. Approximately 70 percent of patients who need a transplant do not have a fully matched donor in their family and depend on programs like Be The Match.
Be The Match provides a database with more than 39 million donors worldwide, but there are still patients who cannot find a match. Therefore, there is a strong need to register more people to become donors.
According to Coleman, it is a simple process to sign up to be a donor, and it requires a quick cheek swab. A representative from Be The Match will be at the event to oversee the cheek swabbing, which students will administer themselves.
“It would have been beneficial if I had a transplant, and that is the reason why I am holding this drive. I hope to help at least one person find a match,” Coleman said. “This event speaks to what Neumann University is all about.”