We Interrupt to Bring You: Human Leukocyte Antigen Types (HLA types)

Letter from BeTheMatch.orgTotally unrelated to writing, but deeply related to life.

Today I learned from the folks at BeTheMatch.org (I’m on the National Bone Marrow Registry) that I have a rare HLA type. This is the thing you want to match up well between patient and donor for a circulating blood cell or marrow donation. It’s a lot more particular than blood type, and it’s closely related to your ancestry, ethnicity, and heritage.

As a person who generally considers herself Irish-American, I was pretty surprised. (Trust me, there’s a lot of Irish-Americans out there.) I did my home cheek swab and joined up more out of support for a local leukemia patient than because I thought they’d need me. Apparently, I was wrong. I may not be needed very often, but if I am, I’m likely to be one of a very few matches

I’m feeling a little overwhelmed by the what-ifs right now. Personally, I know I’m fine with donating if I can help someone save their life. But what if I hadn’t happened to see that poster? I look at the articles about patients for whom there is no match yet in the entire registry, and I sure wish I’d joined sooner.

Want to know more, or considering your own cheek swab? BeTheMatch.org for facts, myths, medical guidelines, etc.

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