Ann Straessle – *Official Bone Marrow Donor
If you had the chance to save someone’s life, what would you do? Such a profound opportunity is possible by registering with the Be The Match Foundation. Be The Match is the world’s largest stem cell and bone marrow database. They match patients suffering with blood cancers like leukemia, with potential, life-saving donors.
It’s a simple swab that is entered into a database of more than 11 million donors. For patients needing a transplant, there is a 76% to 97% likelihood that a match can be found in this registry. For donors, odds are one in 500, you’ll be matched with someone needing a cure.
Little Rock oncologist Dr. Brad Baltz has had several patients benefit from a Be The Match transplant.
“There is a small chance you would be chosen, but if you were, that would be miraculous. The swabbing is no big deal, the stem-cell collection is no big deal, so it’s one of those things…it’s kind of like winning the lottery for somebody’s life. Take a ticket to see if you can be the match for somebody’s miracle,” says Dr. Baltz.
Dr. Baltz’s patient, Larry Clark, knows first hand how truly miraculous a stem-cell transplant can be. Suffering from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Clark needed a life-saving transplant two years ago. He was lucky enough that his own brother was a perfect match.
“Really, stem cells are the gift of life because you’re taking somebody that’s not going to make it for sure and you’re turning them into somebody that can make it,” says Clark.
When Ann Straessle registered with Be The Match four years ago, she truly hoped she would be fortunate enough to help someone struggling with cancer. When she found out she was a match with someone this spring, she said “yes” without hesitation.
“I felt so lucky and blessed to be able to do this,” says Ann.
Ironically, Ann Straessle works for Dr. Baltz with patients like Clark. So she knew how rare it was that she had been selected to be a match. She also knew how powerful her donation could be.
“It was very humbling because I work in an oncology clinic and I have seen the struggle that our cancer patients go through and the fight that they have every day to survive and beat their cancers, so I was humbled by that experience,” says Ann.
To get her body ready for the donation, this mother of five, put her life on hold. She received injections of a drug called Filgrastim to increase her blood forming cells. Be The Match then flew Ann and her husband to a hospital where she was hooked up to a machine that harvested her stem cells over the course of four hours. Physically, Ann says the process was relatively easy. Emotionally, her husband, Steve, says it was overwhelming.
“I said, you know, that’s the second time in our life together that you said yes at a very important time. The first was when I asked you to marry me and it was important because we created this life, and the second was when you said yes, I will do the stem cell donation and it’s important because you gave whoever this recipient is, an opportunity for more life. It’s profound,” says Steve.
In honor of her anonymous recipient, Ann is hosting a Be The Match Drive for two days at Little Rock’s Catholic High School. The times are 12:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Friday, November 21 and 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 22.
If you can’t attend the drive, you can join online at the Be The Match website and use the promo code ARGIVES.