- The Washington Times - Monday, July 10, 2006

Rare is the occasion when a Navy SEAL needs help from his fellow Americans. Perhaps even rarer is the day an ordinary American can help a Navy SEAL. But Justin, 27, whose last name is not being disclosed at the request of the Defense Department, is in need, and Americans, especially readers in the Washington area, have an opportunity to help.

Last month, the Iraq war veteran was diagnosed with leukemia, which is normally treated with chemotherapy. Justin, however, has a rare condition that makes his best chance of survival dependent on a bone marrow transplant. Tragically, neither of Justin’s siblings — who often are the best match for transplants — is a suitable donor. This makes the chance of finding a donor, according to Justin’s sister, Jodi, about one in 25,000. Unless a match can be found, leukemia patients often die within months.

So, last week Justin’s hometown newspaper, the East Brunswick, N.J., Sentinel, published a story asking local residents for help. While the Navy SEALs are busy conducting their own donor search, the potential donor field could be increased significantly if Washington-area readers are able to drive the three hours to Spotswood, N.J., where on Saturday the local high school is holding a one-day donor search, courtesy of the Defense Department’s Donor Program (www.dodmarrow.org).

Testing is painless. Volunteers would be administered a simple swab on the inside of the cheek to find out if they’re a match. That’s it. In the rare case you are a match, the marrow extraction process itself is also relatively simple. The procedure includes the taking of a small amount of marrow via needle from the back of the pelvic bone, according to the Defense Department’s Donor Program, at either Georgetown University Hospital or the University of Maryland’s Greenbaum Medical Center in Baltimore. Patients are fully anesthetized at all times. Concerned readers are encouraged to contact Eddy Medina of the Defense Department program (800-627-7693 ext. 223) to learn more about the testing and procedure.

As quoted in the Sentinel, Justin’s sister said: “When he was told that there was only a 30 percent chance of recovery, he replied, ‘That’s good. There was only a 10 percent chance of me becoming a SEAL’.” The drive is being held at Spotswood High School, 105 Summerhill Road, Spotswood, N.J., this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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