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Can you save Devan’s life? It’s as easy as swabbing your cheek

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I first learned about Devan on Twitter, when writer Susan Orlean tweeted this:

“The darling son of my very dear friends has leukemia and needs bone marrow. Please, please RT and take a look here: www.matchdevan.com/ ”

RT, in Twitter language, means “retweet,” or send it along to the people who follow you. Susan Orlean has more than 50,000 followers on Twitter, so when she tweeted about Devan, all those people would have learned about him – and many of them retweeted it to their own followers, all in an effort to help save this young boy.

Devan Tatlow is absolutely adorable. He is 4 years old, has dark curly hair and eyes that smile from here to the moon. He has acute promyelocytic leukemia, which is rare, and he needs a bone marrow transplant in the next 10 weeks. His bone marrow is exceptionally hard to match because he is a mixed-race child: his father is European and his mother is Polish and south Indian. Though the global adult stem cell/bone marrow registry has 14 million members, there is as yet no match for Devan – or many other patients around the world just like him.

The tweets flew. Bloggers blogged. Paris Hilton joined in. Media outlets picked up on the story. Even The National, a newspaper in Abu Dhabi, printed a story asking for people in the United Arab Emirates to register due to their south Asian descent and the number of inter-racial marriages.

All for one small 4-year-old boy.

Devan has some good news. Doctors told his parents this week that they have found umbilical cord blood of a newborn baby that is a match. It’s not perfect, and they won’t be certain for two weeks. But for Devan’s parents, it already feels like a lifesaver.

"We're just thrilled to hear this news,” Devan’s mom, Indira Lakshmanan, told radio station WTOP. “They had gone through all of the adult registries and the fact that they hadn't found anyone there was incredibly discouraging."

Here’s the deal. It’s really, really easy to register with the National Bone Marrow Registry. All you have to do is register online. They will send you a swab kit. You swab the inside of your cheek, and send the swab back. That’s it. If you are ever a match for someone who needs a transplant, you’ll be contacted. If you’re not, you won’t.

From the New York Times:

“About a year ago, another bone marrow drive was held in Lower Manhattan. One of the people who signed up was Carlos Segura, the father of twins. The registration was a painless process that involved filling out forms and having a quick swab of the cheek with cotton on a stick. “All the parents in the area went,” Mr. Segura said. “Six months later, I got a call that I was a match for someone with a blood cancer. All they told me was that it was a 4-year-old boy.”

“The method of extracting marrow has improved considerably from when a long needle was stuck into a bone. Now, a donor can take medicine for five days, which makes the blood richer with the most valuable cells. These are harvested with little pain.

“You go into a hospital and they take the blood out of one arm, run it through a machine that takes out the cells, and then puts it back in the other arm,” Mr. Segura said.

“Born in Colombia, Mr. Segura moved to New York 20 years ago. He was puzzled by the shortfall of Latinos in the registry. (African-Americans are also underrepresented.)

“I think there’s not that much information about this, and you really don’t hear about it,” Mr. Segura said. “My mom never heard about it. Some people think it’s painful, but it’s much better with the medicine they use now to get the cells. They make it easy.”

Think about it. One swab to the cheek and you could save someone’s life. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

Register with the National Bone Marrow Registry:

Devan’s website, which also links to registry sites:

A blogger in Devan’s hometown:

The National story:

The WTOP story:

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



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