- Associated Press - Saturday, April 25, 2015

ATLANTA (AP) - In addition to other weekend events in the city of Atlanta, a “swab” project was held for Dr. William Dablah, an anesthesiologist at Piedmont Newnan Hospital.

“Swab for Dablah” was hosted in an apartment complex lobby on Piedmont Street in an ambitious effort to collect tissue samples from as many willing participants as possible, in hopes of finding a bone marrow match for the local doctor.

In September, Dablah was diagnosed with aggressive metastatic lymphoma, a type of lymphoma that can spread quickly. It was determined the local doctor needs a bone marrow transplant from a matching donor after Dablah’s body rejected an autologous (a transplant using the body’s own cells) transplant. Without a bone marrow transplant, Dablah has been given six months to live.

Finding a match is difficult. Dr. Dablah has an uncommon ancestry; his mother is from Haiti, while his father was from Ghana. Many describe locating a successful bone marrow match by conventional means to be “like finding a needle in a haystack.”

In order to cast the net wider, physician assistants Elizabeth Stubbs and Victoria Aranda, who have both worked with Dablah, organized an event they hoped would reach an underrepresented community in tissue donors. The assistants focused primarily on Africans and African Americans in hopes of finding a matching donor.

“By reaching out to the Haitian and Ghanaian communities, this is an event that speaks volumes,” said Christian Chrispin, Dablah’s uncle. “Will is a great father - he gets a score of 100-plus - yet he has this cancer (that is) unfortunately trying to stop him from being a father too early. But we’re serving a great God. He is mighty and He is going to bring Will through.”

A bone marrow match is determined by the similarities between the patient and another individual’s human leukocyte antigen (HLA), a protein found in most cells in the human body. Volunteers at the Swab for Dablah event provided a DNA sample that was easily obtained by swabbing the skin on the inside of the individual’s cheek.

Results from the swab project have not been released, but a few promising candidates participated. One woman with Stubbs’ team was from Cameroon, while a woman from Ghana now living in Atlanta, Helen Tandoh, heard about the event on the news.

“I know I would want to do everything I could to live for my kids,” Tandoh said. “And this (‘Swab for Dablah’) is the least you can do. It’s quick and painless.”

While Dablah is in New York at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center receiving experimental chemotherapy treatment, many of his friends and family were on hand to show support.

Dr. Tod Rubin, a long-time colleague and friend of Dablah, as well as Piedmont Newnan Hospital nurses who work with Dablah, came to the event.

“This bone marrow transplant is the only option,” he said. “Hopefully it will help him and other people on the registry. If anyone is interested (in donating), it has to be as soon as possible. Time is of the essence.”

Those interested can order a kit by visiting www.join.bethematch.org/DRDablah. The kit can be expedited to those who wish to help Dr. Dablah immediately.

Stubbs acknowledged that a bone marrow transplant for Dablah isn’t a cure; even in the event of a successful match, within a few years the cancer likely will return.

Rubin says the public’s awareness is too low toward the crucial life-saving ability of bone marrow, and that people should donate, because even if their sample is not a potential match for Dablah, they can be a potential match for some other person in need, possibly years down the road.

“At some point in life, either you or someone you know - a friend, a loved one, a colleague - will be affected,” said Stubbs, noting how 70 percent of bone marrow matches come from outside of the family, often from complete strangers. “It’s crucial for people to understand, what if it was you or someone close to you? It’s something we should all take seriously, because the more people we can have swabbed and be in the database, the more lives we can save.”


Information from: The Times-Herald, https://www.times-herald.com

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