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Editor's Notebook: Finding a perfect match for friend could help save his life

| Tuesday, June 11, 2013, 7:27 p.m.

Just one person with the right blood can save my friend Tom Griffith's life.

Ten million people don't have it. That's how many people already are on the national Be the Match bone-marrow and stem-cell donor registry.

Not one yet has the exact blood match. But someone out there who hasn't been tested yet probably does have what Tom needs. Be the Match wants to find it. Central Blood Bank wants to test you for it.

It's as easy as the swabbing of your cheek to collect cells.

Tom, 65, suffers from a rare condition called aplastic anemia that causes the bone marrow to not produce any cells.

He must get two to three transfusions a week to keep him going.

He found out he had the disease two years ago ­— a week before marrying his wife Joyce ­— when doctors said his platelet count was dangerously low.

Doctors originally thought he had the same condition as TV newscaster Robin Roberts, myelodysplastic syndrome, but later determined it was the rarer aplastic anemia, which affects just three people in a million,

Tom and Joyce were optimistic a month ago when doctors thought they had found a match, but it turned out the DNA wasn't perfect.

Now Tom is waiting again and hoping more people will be tested and a match will be found before his health deteriorates.

He has dreams of buying a recreational vehicle and enjoying his retirement years traveling with Joyce and their two greyhounds across the country.

Unfortunately, I can't help him.

I wish I could. I'm older than the 18-to-44 age group that can be tested to be stem-cell donors. Central Blood Bank is looking for younger donors because the transplant success rate is better with young blood.

Many people want to help, but only that special age group can help Tom and other people like him who are awaiting stem-cell and bone-marrow transplants.

Of course, all people in age groups are invited to donate blood to replenish the blood supply.

Tom doesn't know if a donor will be found for him but hopes to spread the word so other people can be helped.

Debra Utterback is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1403 or dutterback@tribweb.com.

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