It will only take about 20 to 30 minutes on Feb. 11 to possibly save a life.
Between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. community members are invited to drop by Temple De Hirsch Sinai on Capitol Hill to donate a sample of blood that could save the life of Temple members Irene and Eugene Arron’s daughter, Deborah Arron.
It’s now become a numbers game for Arron, who was diagnosed with a non-threatening blood disorder in 1993 but has now learned that she belongs to a small 2 to 5 percent of people for whom the disorder could potentially change into acute myelogenous leukemia, a particularly virulent form of leukemia.
Arron, a 50-year-old woman who is from an Eastern European Jewish genetic background, needs a bone marrow or stem cell transplant from as similar a genetic match as she can find. Registered in the National Marrow Donor Program registry, she has the best chance at a perfect genetic blood match with a younger version of herself, an Ashkenazic Jewish woman, but any donor is a possible lifesaver for her or the 6 million others worldwide who are also in the registry and are at risk of dying from life-threatening blood diseases.
That is why her family is asking everyone in the Jewish community to donate a sample of their blood so they can be entered into the international bone marrow registry.
A lawyer who practiced business and family law in Seattle for 10 years, Arron left her well-established law career in the mid 1980s, finally submitting to the pressures of an unrelenting schedule and the lack of family time. She married Mark Jaroslaw, owner of NichePress, in 1988. After a few unsuccessful attempts to expand her family, Arron finally delivered baby Benjamin prematurely at 29 weeks, but he did not survive. Her yet undiagnosed blood-clotting complication was inhibiting a full-term pregnancy.
Greatly disappointed but still determined, Arron authored two best-selling books about her dissatisfaction with the legal profession, and has become a sought-after speaker on the national career circuit. As she helped others come to terms with their own career dissatisfaction and find creative ways to use their legal degrees, Arron vented her own frustration and began to change her own life. The threatening news she received in August 2000 of the increased statistical odds that her blood could change from just being different to becoming potentially fatal changed it yet again.
“I was originally diagnosed with this supposedly benign blood disorder in 1993 that is very treatable and people typically live long lives,” said Arron, recounting the onset of some initial symptoms. “Then I began to experience itching, especially after the shower, and I kept getting the flu over and over again. Then my doctor discovered chromosomal abnormalities. When I first found out, I was absolutely shocked. You can never imagine your life going in this direction.”
Arron immediately went to her large family, which includes two brothers and four sisters. To her great surprise, none of them were even a potential match. A “perfect” blood-type match involves 12 different genetic markers in both blood samples. Most good matches fall somewhere between three and six compatible markers.
Arron immediately began searching for potential donor matches through the Donor Program which registers about 40,000 new donors a month. Just this past December, the national registry had found a prefect match with all 12 markers miraculously lined up, making the life-saving procedure possible. But just when Arron was about to undergo pre-transplant treatment, the anonymous donor, for unknown reasons, decided against the donation. Arron, no stranger to disappointments and setbacks, rallied her courage and is appealing to the Jewish community for the next step.
“I had to get psychologically prepared for the transplant,” said Arron, “and I was warned the day before, which was Dec. 13, there might be problem with the donor. Then, on Dec. 14, she backed out. I’m just really hopeful there will be another miracle out there. I feel so grateful to my family for wanting to do this. If my situation can raise awareness about the gift we can give each other, then it is a 100 percent win/win. I think it’s a great thing for the Jewish community because we all have that common loss [of the Holocaust]. We really need to think of ourselves as a larger family because our gene pool was so compromised. It gives me a feeling of fighting back.”
Donors may be asked to undergo a simple bone marrow procedure or an even less complicated stem cell donation. If shown to be a match for Arron or anyone in the international registry, the blood donation is sent by courier to the patient and requires no travel on the part of the donor.
Arron’s husband, who has set up a Web site describing the process, the procedure for the donation and background information on Arron, has been at her side every step of the way. He hopes this donor drive will yield a match not just genetically but psychologically.
“We’re looking for people who are committed donors, someone who has given it a lot of thought and will not back out,” said Jaroslaw. “She needs an immediate transplant, ASAP. A successful drive is about 200 people. You can’t be older than 60 but we typically look for people between 18 and 60. All you do is fill out a few forms, have a brief interview, give your blood and you’re on your way. If there is an initial match, the extended workup will be paid for by our insurance company.”
Arron remains hopeful and very positive. She is enjoying her days and is finally giving herself the sabbatical she always wanted. Facing the most serious challenge of her life so far, her early religion school memories from Temple De Hirsch’s Religion School bring her the strength and understanding that somehow puts it all into perspective.
“I was taught that there is life after death coming for us in the good memories of people after you die and that you shall not stand idly by,” said Arron. “And that he that has saved one life, it’s as if he has saved the entire world. This is a wonderful gift without being such an imposition on the giver. I want to be remembered fondly and I am not standing idly by.”
For more information, go to their Web site www.FriendsofDeborah.com or call 206-285-5239.