May 21, 2008 - Lack of knowledge among the general public and a shortage of potential bone marrow donors from diverse ethnic groups could make it more difficult for a Montreal father of African Caribbean descent to find a match. Animation and technology writer and blogger Emru Townsend was diagnosed with leukemia in mid-December and needs a bone marrow transplant from a matching donor. Townsend, 38, a husband and the father of a eight-year-old son, has written and blogged about anime, other styles of animation, and technology in the Globe and Mail, All-Movie Guide, Maisonneuve, Sci-Fi Entertainment, PC World, Digital World Tokyo and for his own project, Frames Per Second (fps). His sister, also an animation fan, is appealing to other fans at Anime North to learn more about being a bone marrow and stem cell donor to help patients in need of a transplant that could save their lives.
Part of the problem is people think a transplant is a risk to their own health due to overdramatization, confusion about donor experience versus recipient experience, and misconceptions that spread through word of mouth without the proper information. Another popular misconception is that matches are usually found in the family. In fact, 70% will rely on a stranger to be on the registry when they are in need. If you are of European descent in Canada, you have a 75% chance of finding a match. If you are anyone else your chance is between 10-30%.
Japan has the most homogeneous and well-represented donor pool in the world, but for many others there are not enough matching donors of a similar ethnicity. If you are of Asian or African descent, you are more at risk of not finding a donor. Tamu Townsend will be sitting in the artists' alley ready for questions. Flyers were already distributed and she will discuss the content of the flyer in more detail with anyone who wants more information. A US version of the flyers will debut at A-kon at the end of the month.
There are currently more than 500 active searches underway for Canadian patients needing a bone marrow transplant. There are tens of thousands of people who search around the world daily.
Townsend and his family are asking members of the public, particularly people from African and African Caribbean ethnic communities, to seriously consider registering with the OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network (www.onematch.ca), Héma-Québec Stem Cell Registry (www.hema-quebec.qc.ca), or the National Marrow Donor Program (www.marrow.org). In Canada (except Quebec) and the United States, potential donors must complete an online questionnaire and perform a cheek swab with a kit that is sent to their home, which they mail back to in a postage paid envelope.