Donor and recipient urge others to get swabbed

POCAHONTAS, AR (KAIT) - Every year, thousands are diagnosed with life-threatening leukemia's and lymphomas. For some, the cure exists through bone marrow or stem-cell transplants.

"It's amazing to me why more people don't know about it and aren't doing it," Region 8 Veteran Jimmy Bryan told Region 8 News.

After Bryan donated bone marrow to save the life of a young girl, encouraging more to become involved and on Friday, you'll have just the chance to do so.

"Be The Match" starts with just a cheek swab.

"No blood was necessary, it was just that easy," Bryan told Region 8 News.

Bryan was cheek swabbed in basic training in 2007. Bryan explained he thought it would be necessary in case anything happened overseas so that his organs could go to those who needed them.

Thankfully, that wasn't the case,but late last year, long after he'd forgotten about being been placed on the "Be The Match" registry, he got a phone call.

"It was just a miracle, I was a perfect match," Bryan said.

A perfect match for a 7-year-old girl half a world away. The girl needed Jimmy's bone marrow, a donation he said was relatively painless.

"They put me to sleep, they worked on me for a little while and I woke up a few hours later with just minor back pain."

Bryan said right now, it's too soon to tell if he will need to make another donation for the girl but he would gladly do it again.

"I would. I would in a heartbeat."

It's that kind of selflessness that allowed us to sit down with Reid Pennington Wednesday afternoon.

Pennington was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in April of 2011.

"But it had an additional feature called a Flt-3 mutation," Pennington explained.

Doctors told Pennington that not only was it going to be difficult to get AML into remission, but keeping it there wouldn't be easy either, especially with the Flt-3 mutation.

"They left a very strong impression that my best hope of a positive outcome was to do the transplant."

Pennington started chemo but was also placed on the stem-cell transplant list.

"Toward the end of May one evening, they called and said 'We found a match!'"

While Pennington had to undergo intensive treatment before and after the transplant, it ultimately saved his life.

"I've been given some extra time and that's the way I look at it...but what about a six-year-old or a seven-year-old or a fifteen-year-old?" Pennington asked.

It's too many people who need transplants and too few people in the registry that has Pocahontas resident June Clark worried.

"Over 50% of people that are in the bank that are waiting for a stem cell transplant or bone marrow never receive a match," Clark explained.

For Clark, "Be The Match" is a cause that's near and dear to her heart as her brother has been waiting to find a donor for months now. Which is why Clark is bringing "Be The Match" to Pocahontas and urges others to get swabbed.

"It's so easy to do," Clark said.

"I don't know how you put a value on that," Pennington added.

"It's one of the greatest things I've ever done," Bryan told Region 8 News.

The Randolph County Relay for Life will take place Friday at Overlook Park and "Be the Match" will be on hand from 3:30 to 8:30 taking cheek swabs.

If rain moves in, the Relay for Life will be moved to the Community Center.

You can learn more information about Be The Match at their website.

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