Banner Health News Center  

Give the gift of life by signing up to be a bone marrow donor Dec. 1 at Banner Estrella


PHOENIX (Nov. 26, 2012) – When 46-year-old Leonard “Ray” Binford went home from work in January with shortness of breath and a headache, he had no idea that within a year, he would be asking the community to help save his life. Now Binford is one of many patients who hope people will participate in the Bone Marrow Registry Drive 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1 in the lobby of Banner Estrella Medical Center, 9201 W. Thomas Road, Phoenix.

After exhibiting symptoms including the shortness of breath and headaches, along with bleeding and fatigue, Binford was diagnosed with a type of leukemia, or blood cancer. Soon the husband and father, and new grandfather, had a new lifestyle – spending 16-20 days in the hospital for chemotherapy treatments with two week stays at home in between.

 “If I go longer than two weeks, which is kind of pushing it, I run the risk of the cancer working its way back,” Binford said.

While treatments help keep the disease at bay – only one thing will cure it – a bone marrow transplant from a matching donor. Binford’s information has been cross-matched with the national registry and no matches are available.  Recipients are more likely to be matched with people of their own ethnicity and African Americans are under-represented on this registry.  Adding to that – Binford is of mixed ethnicity, with African American and Native American heritage.

“Race is a factor in the matching process and we don’t have many African Americans or Native Americans on the registry, so it will be challenging to find him a donor,” said Oscar Correa of Be the Match, the donor registry.

According to the latest statistics, African Americans have only a 66 percent chance of finding a donor match, compared to 93 percent in Caucasians. That’s why the staff at Banner Estrella are hoping community members of all ethnicities will attend the drive and sign up to be a potential donor.

A 2010 drive at the hospital yielded 700 new registrants, among whom there were three that were potential matches for a transplant including a three year old little girl and a Hispanic patient who was also struggling to find a match due to his ethnicity. They continue to find an average of one match per months as a result of the drive two years ago.

Registration to be a donor requires very little effort. Participants will fill out paperwork, be pre-screened, and get their cheek swabbed. Then they will be entered into the registry. Donating bone marrow is not as complicated as it was in the past – about 74 percent of donations can be done without the need for surgery.

“It is very similar to donating plasma or platelets,” Correa said.
While he waits for a donor match, Binford continues his treatments and is known as a very unique patient at Banner Estrella.

“You can see me doing 200 push-ups, even while I have all the tubes for chemotherapy in my arms,” Binford said. “I’m determined that no matter how weak my body feels, the stronger I need to make it so I can fight this disease. I want to live.”

He thanks anyone who decides to come out to the registration drive and those who end up donating their bone marrow.

“It’s amazing how just a little bit of your time can save someone’s life,” Binford said. “There are so many people out there who never expected to get this disease who you can cure with your donation.”

Located on the southeast corner of the Loop 101 Freeway and Thomas Road, nonprofit Banner Estrella Medical Center is a 214-bed full-service hospital offering general surgery, orthopedics, women and infants services, a full cardiac program with open-heart surgery, emergency services, and medical imaging services.

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