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People step up in bid to help find a bone marrow donor for mom

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People step up in bid to help find a bone marrow donor for mom

Victoria Martin is surrounded Monday by her family – husband Jay and children Jerry, 11, and Delicia, 10 – and McParland School teacher Heller Lipsett, who organized the bone marrow don...

VINCE REMBULAT/The Bulletin


POSTED October 15, 2009 2:22 a.m.
Victoria Martin may not have been feeling up to snuff.

But for her it really didn’t matter. She was bent on thanking those who came out to the bone marrow matching donor drive held Monday in the McParland School library.

“I was going to be there come hell or high water,” said Martin, who has been battling cancer for over six years.

She’s the mother of two children attending the school, Jerry, 11, and Delicia, 10. A former yard supervisor at the Annex, Martin happens to be the one in need of a bone marrow transplant, and is in dire need of finding a match outside of her family.

“The easiest match would have been her brother or sister. But neither was a match so we had to go with what’s called an unrelated donor,” said Victoria’s husband, Jay.

It’s not unusual.

 According to Be The Match – on hand was Liz Ustick, a marrow recruitment specialist, from Blood Source – 70 percent of those patients are unable to find a match in their own family. A bone marrow transplant may benefit those suffering from leukemia and other life-threatening diseases.

There are no guarantees.

Martin, who went almost four months of cancer remission during her last treatment of chemotherapy, indicated that a successful bone marrow transplant could provide long-term remission. “But as we all know there’s no cure for cancer,” she said.

Martin, who is Hispanic, must find someone of her own ethnicity as a match.

But according to Be The Match registry, only 9 percent of 7 million listed are Hispanic / Latino, and 8 percent are African American or black. By contrast, Caucasians outnumber all groups with 73 percent or 5.3 million of the registered donors.

Ustick believes that many of the minority groups are uninformed.

 “I think if more people got tested and donated so many lives could be saved,” Martin said. “So many people are not fortunate to get a donor.”

Donors must be between the ages of 18 through 60 and are required to meet the health guidelines.

At McParland, Ustick reported a strong turnout during that first hour of the bone marrow donor drive, with an estimated 20 people getting screen and tested.

The donor drive was made possible by sixth-grade teacher Heller Lipsett. Martin’s son, Jerry, is a student in her class.

Lipsett only became aware of Victoria Martin’s ailing health at a recent back-to-school event. She found it necessary to help out the family by organizing a yard sale about two months ago, with proceeds going to Martin’s “transplant fund.”

Jay noted that his wife’s health varies from day to day. She’s been in and out of the various medical facilities, including UC Davis, UCSF and Stanford.

For him, life is more about need.
His wife is in need of locating a bone marrow match and donor sooner rather than later.

However, his insurance only covers the transplant and hospital stay.

His wife’s stay at the Stanford Medical Center would be about 101 days including a quarantine period. Jay and any family member would also be required to live within a 20-minute radius of the Bay Area medical facility.

“It’s very expensive for us to stay there (for any extended period),” he said.

Friends of the family are planning another yard sale along with a benefit dinner and meal drive.

Added Victoria Martin: “I’m just very grateful to have such a loving family and friends who care and want to help – it means a lot. And I would like to thank everyone who came out and tested.”

In particular, she hopes to promote awareness.

“It may not be me but it could be another life out there that gets saved,” Martin said.

In addition, she thanked Lipsett; Be the Match; and her sister, Shiloh Dutra, who took swab samples – “she was our ‘swabatomist,’” Martin said.

To learn more about becoming a bone marrow donor, log on to www.bethematch.org or call (800) 627-2692.

Donations to Victoria Martin’s bone marrow transplant fund may be made to her savings account (#6631105480) at Union Bank of California, 1431 W. Yosemite Ave., Manteca.
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