Metro Detroit mom gets gift of life, waited 10 years for it

Stranger donates bone marrow to local mom, she will receive it at Karmanos Cancer Center


DETROIT – Tara Revyn has been waiting 10 years for the gift of life. Friday she will receive that gift from a 35-year-old stranger

"It's huge, its huge, especially after waiting for ten years," said a tearful Revyn.

Revyn has myelodysplastic syndrome.

"This is a disease of her bone marrow where she's not making enough cells, not making the right kind of cells and one of the bad things that can happen to this in the long run is it can go on to develop into an acute leukemia," said Dr. Joseph Uberti, Revyn's doctor at the Karmanos Cancer Center.

This metro Detroit mother's best chance at survival has always been a bone marrow transplant, but she has faced challenges in finding a match.

"I'm Korean, I'm adopted, so all of my family members are Caucasian. So I have no known blood relatives," said Revyn.

Since she did not have a family match, Revyn turned to the Be The Match Registry, but was unable to find a donor.   She remained determined to live for son and focused on surviving and growing the registry.

"Your best match is somebody that's your ethnicity so there is a great great great need for minority donors to get on the registry," said Revyn. "I decided to do bone marrow drives everywhere, every single Korean church, every single college campus."

A few years ago, Revyn did find a match in a stranger, but that person changed their mind.  Revyn was devastated.  She has survived 10 years with myelodysplastic syndrome, but living with the disease has become more difficult.

"Just as of recently my health has been deteriorating," said Revyn. "So a lot of my counts have been dropping dramatically and frequently."

Revyn and her doctor made a decision to check the registry again, fearful that her condition could worsen.

"We think we have our best chance of curing her right now in terms of curing her with a transplant," said Dr. Uberti.

Finally Revyn received news she couldn't believe, that they found a match for her. This Friday, Revyn will receive the bone marrow transplant, a gift of life from a complete stranger.

"I do know my donor is a 35-year-old male and that's pretty much all I can know," said Revyn. "This guy somewhere in the world is taking time out of his day for somebody he does not even know, he has no strings  attached to me and he's going to help save my life."

"The best match we could find is what's known as a seven out of eight match which isn't a perfect match, but some of the data is showing that you can do just as well with a seven out of eight match right now as a fully eight out of eight match donor," said Uberti.

Uberti is the co-leader of the Bone Marrow Transplant Multidisciplinary Team and co-director of the Blood and Bone Marrow Stem Cell Transplant Program at the Karmanos Cancer Center.  He is also the chief of the Division of Hematology and Oncology. He would like to see more ethnic groups participate in the donor registry to increase the changes of someone like Revyn finding a match.

"It's very frustrating we know that if we can increase the donor registry wed have more donors available we'd give people a chance of a cure," said Uberti.

Revyn feels very blessed to be receiving her transplant and looking forward to a future with her now 17-year old son.

"I want to see him graduate and now I'm like you know what i might just have that chance!" said Revyn.

According to Be The Match, about 70 percent of patients in need of a transplant do not have a matching donor in their family, so they need the registry to help find a donor.  Be The Match  is the world's largest registry with 10.5 million ready marrow donors and almost 185,000 cord blood units.   The registry was responsible for providing 5,800 marrow and cord blood transplants in 2012.

There are two bone marrow drives happening in metro Detroit this weekend.

Saturday July 20, 2013:

11 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Boulan Park (Shelter #2)
Boulan Drive
Troy, MI

10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Romeo Sidewalk Sale
185 S. Main Street
Romeo, MI

To make sure your donation goes to patients in Michigan, when you sign up put in promo code Detroit13.  Also you can sign up to Team Tara.

According to Be The Match, "If you are between the ages of 18 & 44, patients need you. Doctors choose registry members between 18 & 44 more than 90% of the time."

To find out more about how to be a donor, click here.  

You can also contact Tarita Gibson at tgibson@nmdp.org or (313) 802-1044.

The Be The Match Registry, (BTM) North Central Region, is a part of the 3rd Annual Michigan Marrow 5k Walk & Fun Run.  Money raised from the event will be used to  "support adding new potential donors to our national registry to provide bone marrow transplants for patients with leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell anemia and other life threatening diseases."

The 3rd Annual Michigan Marrow 5k Walk & Fun Run will be Saturday August 10 at 9 a.m.
Stony Creek Metro Park
4300 Main Park Drive
Shelby Twp., MI 48316
For more information to register/start a team, click here.