Have a few minutes to swab your cheek and mail back a test kit?
It could save the life of Deerfield resident Randy Bultman – or someone else who’s battling leukemia.
Bultman’s family is working hard to get the word out about the test kits that are available through worldwide, nonprofit bone marrow donor bank DKMS, which proclaims on its website, www.dkms.org, “We Delete Blood Cancer.”
The Bultmans registered through DKMS in hopes of finding a full bone marrow match for Randy. Ultimately, the only full match was found in Australia. With a 24-hour window to get donated bone marrow into a patient, that was too far away, the family said.
“It would have taken too long,” said Rachel Bultman, Randy’s 20-year-old daughter who ultimately was determined to be a half-match, which was enough for the transplant to go ahead on May 30 at UW Hospital.
Rachel’s part involved four days -- three consecutive daily clinic visits and one day of outpatient surgery. About a liter and a half of bone marrow was taken from her hips. She returned to work a week later.
“The process looks much scarier than it actually is,” Rachel said. “And once you’re finished, there’s the reward of knowing that you have given someone a new chance at life.”
Randy came home from the hospital last week and while he has a long recovery ahead, there are very early signs of success.
“He’s on his way back,” Rachel said.
Yet, his face still graces the Patient Stories website page of DKMS, where it has been posted since March 24.
To read his story, go to: https://www.dkms.org/en/patient/randy
Bultman’s wife, Valerie, said there are two reasons he is still featured on the website, and that they continue to ask community members to register with DKMS.
First, Valerie said, is the desire to help others who might find a match through DKMS. Second, she said, is the possibility that the first transplant could fail – they won’t know that for sure until early September -- and Randy will be back to square one, in search of a new match.
The more donors listed in the bank the higher his chances of having a suitable match if the unthinkable -- the need for a second transplant – arises.
There is, Valerie noted, about a 10-week processing window for donors to show up the database. If the first transplant fails a second will likely be needed quickly; the potential donors will already have to be in the system. There won’t be time, at that point, for more donors to register.
Randy was diagnosed with leukemia in late September 2016, seven months after he first complained to his doctor about back pain. “He just thought he’d hurt his back,” Valerie recalls.
The pain spread to his hip. “We thought he might need hip surgery,” she said.
A blood test eventually confirmed the cause was acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a type of leukemia normally seen in children.
He started chemotherapy in October 2016.
This spring, he participated in a clinical drug trial that put him in remission, which qualified him for the transplant.
With a half-match, Valerie noted, the initial recovery from the transplant is tougher than with a full match; your body is more likely to reject it. But, she said, if it sticks your chances of long-term survival with a good quality of life are better with a half match than with a full match.
DKMS has offices in the United States, Germany, Poland, Spain and the UK, and has registered 6 million donors worldwide. It was founded in 1992 by Dr. Peter Harf, a German physician whose wife had died of leukemia.