After graduating from Mihaylo College, Jessica Acosta ’08 (marketing) went to work with the Chivas USA as the soccer team’s corporate marketing manager.
Acosta says that despite her enthusiasm for her job and her love for sports in general, she felt the need for change and had the desire to give back to the community in some way.
It was this desire along with a job posting on Indeed.com that she found Be The Match in July of 2011.
Be The Match is an organization that helps patients who need marrow transplants find donors. They raise funds, engage the community and try to enroll new donors into the national registry.
They are the official organization entrusted by Congress to handle the United States’ marrow and blood registry, and although their name often misleads people into thinking they are a dating website, something that Acosta laughs off as a good icebreaker, they are the organization that is responsible for every marrow transplant in the United States.
“For people who need a transplant, this is their last option most of the time,” says Acosta. “They’ve tried the chemo; they’ve tried the radiation; and this is their last chance for a cure. This is it.”
Several things she is constantly trying to convey about the organization include its dire need for donors of all ethnic backgrounds and the misconception about the pain and procedure involved.
Acosta says that less than 3% of registered donors are of multiracial backgrounds. This is a percentage that needs to grow, she says, because of the increasingly large population of multiracial children. In addition to multiracial donors, she adds that Middle Eastern and African-American donors are also among the lowest pools within the registry.
This is important to note because there is a larger chance for a tissue match with someone of the same ethnicity. Therefore, the tissue and blood matches for patients of these ethnic backgrounds, and thus their chance at life, will dwindle because of the low pools of donors to be matched with.
Acosta also wants people to know that being a donor doesn’t necessarily require the invasive procedure that many might have in mind. For anyone who associates being a donor with what you saw from Will Smith in the 2008 film Seven Pounds, you can put that out of your mind and rest easy.
“The actual marrow procedure, the extraction, is only done 24% of the time,” Acosta says. “It’s done primarily for pediatric patients and patients whose cancers or diseases are spreading rapidly.”
And this less common process is a simple outpatient procedure that involves general anesthesia. Acosta adds that most of her donors have compared the discomfort to the feeling after a tough workout, but they are back to normal in just two to three days.
For those on the receiving end, it’s a chance to live. “It’s their Hail Mary if you will,” says Acosta.
Every year, more than 12,000 patients in the United States are diagnosed with life-threatening diseases, including leukemia and lymphoma. For many of these patients their only hope of a cure is a transplant from an unrelated adult donor according to Be The Match’s website.
Last year, Be The Match facilitated nearly 6,000 marrow and umbilical cord blood transplants (another way that women are able to add to the registry is through their umbilical cord after it is snipped). Since its conception in 1987, Be The Match has helped more than 55,000 patients who do not have matching donors in their family.
If you’d like to learn more about Be The Match, including the various ways you can contribute, please visit their website.
“I strongly believe that one person can have an impact,” Acosta says. “I may not be able to save the whole world, but at least I can save one person.”