Monday, March 29, 2004

March 27, 2004

Felton Woman Meets Young Girl She Saved

Sentinel staff writer
FELTON — Imagine getting a letter from someone you never met that says, "You are my best friend."

That’s what happened to Felton resident Janea Drummond, who donated her blood stem cells three years ago to help a child whose life hung in the balance.

Today, Sayaka Terada is 8, a healthy, active second grader in Sidney, Ohio.

The two finally met Friday.

Drummond, 48, hugged Sayaka, happy she decided to donate.

"I was glad of the opportunity," she said. "That’s what we’re on the planet for."

The two were special guests at a symposium in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the Intercultural Cancer Council.

"It was so emotional," said Marianne Worley, a spokeswoman for Georgetown Hospital. "There wasn’t a dry eye in the house of 1,000."

What brought the two together was the National Marrow Donor Program, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit that in 15 years has facilitated more than 18,000 transplants for people with life-threatening diseases.

About seven of every eight transplants involves a patient of Caucasian heritage.

That’s because it’s harder to match tissue types for blacks, Latinos, and Asians such as Sayaka, who is Japanese, even though the program has registered 5.2 million potential donors.

Drummond, a Chicago native whose heritage is Japanese and Chinese, had joined the registry in 1996 after her mother-in-law alerted her that parents of a 2-year-old girl in Hawaii were pleading for donors.

"I felt like I owed something — things have been good for me," explained Drummond, who has two sons and owns an electrical repair company with her husband.

She signed up.

Four years went by, and the call came, just before Christmas. Her blood cells matched four of the six factors, one more than another donor in the registry.

"If this were my child, I would hope the person would do it," she said.

The procedure can be daunting. Donating marrow requires a visit to a hospital operating room for up to two hours, and anesthesia.

Donating peripheral blood stem cells requires four consecutive days of drug injections to increase the number of stem cells, but it can be done at a blood center or a hospital.

Drummond drove to Stanford Medical Center for the injections and the procedure. She hadn’t gotten up to leave when the courier arrived to fly the blood cells to Cincinnati. The transplant was performed the next day.

Afterward, Drummond had a seven-day headache. She felt like she had arthritis in her hand, she said: "All your bones hurt."

Sayaka was born with Fanconi anemia, an inherited condition that leaves children thin and bruised and leads to bone marrow failure. The number of cases is not documented worldwide, but a registry at Rockefeller University lists more than 3,000 patients.

The disease, named for a Swiss pediatrician, is among more than 70 treatable by a blood stem cell transplant. However, only 30 percent of patients find a match in their family, according to the National Marrow Donor Program.

Sayaka has a younger sister who was not a match. So she, like so many others, had to rely on the generosity of strangers.

Without a transplant, Fanconi anemia patients have little hope of surviving.

Drummond, who has been exchanging letters and pictures with Sayaka for about a year, had hoped to meet her before her family returns to Japan.

"She looked like me when I was her age," she said. "It was so good to see her healthy and vital and plump."

The success rate of the transplants ranges from 40 to 60 percent, depending on the patient’s age and physical characteristics, according to program officials.

"That is why this is such a good story," said Patrick Thompson, spokesman for the National Marrow Donor Program. "This is one of the success stories."

More information on marrow donation is on the Web at

Contact Jondi Gumz at

How to help

The National Marrow Donor Program, founded in 1987 and based in Minneapolis, offers these suggestions to people who would like to help those suffering diseases for which a blood stem cell transplant could be a cure.

-Join the National Marrow Donor Registry as a potential donor.

-Donate your baby’s umbilical cord at birth.

-Make a financial contribution through The Marrow Foundation.

-Donate frequent flyer miles to help patients travel for treatment.

-Donate blood for transplant patients.


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