BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimoreans turned out in droves at a bone marrow drive not just to help those battling leukemia, but one of their own.

Christie Ileto explains how a local priest is at the center of it all.

A simple swab test to save one of their own.

“I’m in good health and it would be a good thing just to try and make a difference,” said potential donor Rich Jasper.

“It’s something I should consider doing, at least,” said potential donor Kate Scott.

Saturday’s bone marrow drive drew Baltimoreans in droves to St. Mary’s Seminary. At the center of it all is Monsignor Arthur Valenzano.

Ileto: “What does this mean to have all of these people coming out to do this bone marrow drive in honor of you?”
Mgr. Valenzano: “I’m humbled by it, really. I’ve received so much support since day one.”

Valenzano has been battling leukemia since 2006. After undergoing a bone marrow transplant, his cancer went into remission but recently came back. His brother is a partial bone marrow match.

“Ideally it’s a sibling but it is possible to have a person completely unrelated somewhere in the world, anywhere in the world that can be a 100 percent match,” he said.

Around 10,000 people are diagnosed with blood cancers like leukemia every year. About 70 percent of them will not have a suitable bone marrow match in their family.

In the first 30 minutes of the drive, a couple of dozen people rolled through. Potential donors swab the inside of their cheeks and then their name gets put on a national registry.

“We’re all connected,” said Monsignor Valenzano. “I’m especially concerned about the lives of these young people who are suffering from leukemia.”

And as personal as it is for Valenzano, it’s equally as personal for the potential donors.

“I have a very dear friend who also has leukemia,” said Brian Lewis. “So there’s no reason why somebody can’t stop down and take a couple of minutes to fill out a form and two seconds later, the cheek swab is done and there you go.”

Valenzano says the drive is not about helping just him but about helping everyone battling blood diseases.

If you are found to be a match for a transplant patient, you will be contacted about becoming a donor.


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