LANCASTER – Jeremy McGrath, motocross and supercross champion, is reaching out to friends, fans and riders across country asking them to donate bone marrow and give support to his wife Kim, who was diagnosed with leukemia recently.
AV Motoplex in Lancaster answered the call with a bone marrow drive Saturday to find potential matches for Kim.
“Their lives seemed to be going perfect, they had everything – money, kids, stardom, now his wife has this…it just kind of shows that people can have everything and something bad can happen,” said Peter Ware, motocross rider. “They’re going to see a whole new way of life really after they see how many people are doing this all over in the motocross community.”
Ware said the idea of donating got everyone’s attention because of Jeremy and Kim.
“I heard bone marrow is kind of painful to give but I’m going to do it anyway. If we can do this and break bones, we can do that,” Ware said. “I never heard of a drive like this before. It’s being brought to the forefront of our community, at least in our industry.”
Antonia Milosevich, one of the organizers of the event, said she got involved in the drive because of her son.
“I have a son and couldn’t imagine going through what she’s going through,” Milosevich said. “If the person that is a match for someone else, what if they didn’t come out and register? I couldn’t imagine someone telling me I couldn’t be around (my son) anymore. It kind of just tugs at the heart strings a little bit. I’m a sucker for the heart strings.”
Dean Werner said he decided to donate because of his daughter.
“My daughter races. It’s a small family community and she rides with a lot of these people down in Temecula, so she knows a lot of the pro riders,” Werner said. “She was hurt real bad last November so they rallied around her, so I’m just kind of paying it forward.”
A note from Kim was posted on the Facebook page “Team KIM,” thanking everyone for their support during this time. The note reads:
“I want to begin by saying ‘Thank You!’ for all the cards and well wishes, heartwarming e-mails and phone calls. Your genuine love and concern continue to lift and carry us through this difficult time. Sincerest thanks to all who have participated in the recent bone marrow drives whether by swabbing to be a donor, volunteering or just being there to support Be The Match. Your response has been overwhelming and unbelievably humbling. Without all of you my story could not be told…”
AV Motoplex owner Brandi Lundin, another organizer of Saturday’s drive, said in addition to finding a match for Kim, they’re also trying to find a match for the thousands of people who also need this donation.
Paige Morrison, account executive of Be The Match, said a lot of the matching has to do with background and heritage. The National Marrow Donation Program does drives all over the country to find matches for anyone searching.
“People are being added to the registry constantly,” she said. “But because of Kim and her search, it has inspired a lot of people to get involved all over. So we’re doing drives for Kim McGrath all over the country.”
It will take about four weeks before any of the 130 registered people Saturday are in the system and searchable, Morrison said. Once they’re in that system, they can be searched through for any patient.
“They could contact you in a month or ten years or never,” Lundin said. “It’s just a matter of if you’re somebody’s match or not.”
The process to be added to the registry involves basic information and a mouth swab, Lundin said.
“It was easy. It was simple. Everyone should do it,” Werner said.
Lundin said this type of donation is nothing like donating a kidney.
“It’s the blood inside the bone that you’re donating and it reproduces itself over four to six weeks so it’s not like you’re giving away something that you don’t give back,” she said. “And I keep thinking to myself if it were me or one of my children that were in need of a match, I would hope that the person in this nation that matched their bone marrow would register.”
There are about 6,000 people searching on any given day, Morrison said, and about 10,000 a year are searching for an unrelated transplant.
Donating is a lot easier than people think, said Morrison. If matched, there are two potential ways that person can donate.
“Seventy-five percent of the time, it’s what we call the peripheral blood stem cell transplant,” she said, “where it’s just two IVs in the arm, and it’s similar to donating platelets or plasma where your blood is filtered through a machine.”
They’re taking stem cells out of the blood that they need and they’re giving the donors blood back at the end of it, she said.
“Really at the end of the day, you’ve lost nothing at all because in the days leading up to that donation, you’re going to be given an injection that boosts your body’s production of those cells,” Morrison said.
The other 25 percent is a marrow donation where they use a syringe at the back of the pelvic bone and take out soft marrow, she said.
“It’s not as scary as people imagine,” Morrison said. “We don’t go through the spine, there’s no drilling in the bone, it’s a soft spongy bone, so it’s still just a syringe to take out the soft marrow.”
“What’s great too is if you’re not able to make it to one of these drives, you can go on to the website marrow.org and they send you a kit free to your home,” Lundin added. “You can do it from your home and send it back.”