Donors come out in force to aid local resident

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Donors come out in force to aid local resident

By Ginny Raue

WEST MILFORD ? For the 110 donors who came out on Jan. 22 to have their cheeks swabbed for a possible stem cell match for West Milford resident Maureen Prol, Dr. Seuss’ words could be their call to battle. A battle against disease, lymphoma in this case, the illness Prol is fighting at this time.

Prol, her husband and three sons are pitted against this disease and with the help of friends, family, neighbors and strangers, the possibility of finding a donor for a stem cell transplant for Prol came a little closer to reality recently. Organized by friends of Prol, the West Milford Presbyterian Church kindly provided the facility for the drive. The generous hearts of the donors provided the chance for success for Prol, or, if not for her, then for someone else in need.

Prol, 58, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002. In 2009 she was diagnosed with lymphoma. Lymphoma, which typically originates in the lymph nodes, is a cancer of the lymphocytes, a type of cell that forms part of the immune system. Treatment usually involves chemotherapy, radiotherapy, bone marrow transplants and stem cell transplants.

In 2009 Prol had chemotherapy to help rid her of the disease and then underwent an auto stem cell transplant, using her own cells. Unfortunately within two years the illness returned and her doctors now recommend a donor stem cell transplant.

“I’m currently getting chemo. The plan is to get the disease eradicated again and then once that happens the plan is to put me in the hospital for the donor cell transplant,” Prol said.

The ideal stem cell match would have come from one of Prol’s siblings, but no match was found. Prol is currently being treated at Memorial Sloan Kettering and she explained that they have access to national and international registries of donors. After a recent blood typing, Prol was told they had found three possible matches for her.

“Although it will not be done next week, they did tell one of those donors to be on hold, be prepared,” she said.

The final results from the West Milford drive will not be in for another few weeks. From what she knows now, 91 of the 110 donors in West Milford are possible candidates.

If a match comes up, the donor would then give a blood sample and have an extensive physical. If all goes well, the blood could be drawn and given to Prol.

She went on to explain that, if she receives the stem cell transplant, she and the donor are not permitted to know of each other until a year has passed, and then only if mutually agreed upon.

“In case things don’t go well for me, they don’t want to burden the person,” she said.

Should she undergo the treatment, it can take up to a year to recover. As she understands it, in organ transplants the recipient can reject the donor organ. In this case, the stem cells can reject the patient, which leads to a failure of the procedure.

Just 15 years ago, Prol would not have even been offered this chance for recovery because of her age. At that time no one over age 35 was considered a candidate. Now, because of recent drug developments, older people can go ahead with the procedure, she said.

As the information about the drive spread around West Milford the old-fashion way, by word of mouth and telephone, her sons were busy using modern technology – Facebook – to get out the information. That resulted in quite a few young people showing up to do what they could to help.

If she could speak with each person who came out to the drive, what would she say?

“Thank you for caring enough, for sharing part of your life with me,” she said with emotion. “Even if it doesn’t help me, it might be just what some stranger may need. That they put themselves in this position is remarkable.”

Ordinary people do remarkable things. Here’s to the donors and the health care professionals, and to those who send prayers heaven-ward. People do care a whole awful lot.

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Donors come out in force to aid local resident