Sisters May Face A Losing Battle, But They’re Putting Up A Fight For Many Others
Two sisters. Fifty states. Fifty-thousand donors. One cause: to encourage bone marrow donation while finding a life-saving donor for 22-year-old Sam Kimura. Siblings Sam and Alex Kimura, along with friend Taylor Shorten, joined efforts to tour the United States on a medical mission after a diagnosis of a rare disease transformed their world.Five years ago, Sam was a healthy high school athlete. Now she’s a young adult struggling to cope with severe aplastic anemia, a blood disorder that causes the bone marrow to fail to make enough blood cells for the body. At age 17, she found out that she may face excessive fatigue, shortness of breath, uncontrollable bleeding and frequent, life-threatening infections. The only cure is a bone marrow transplant to replace diseased cells with healthy ones.
After waiting for an eligible donor to come forward, the women decided to take matters into their own hands. They traded their cars in for a decked out van and began planning a year-long trip to all 50 states. The original goal was to uncover a donor for Sam. As time went on, however, they realized that thousands of people across the country are waiting desperately for a transplant — and that millions of people not only aren’t signed up as potential donors; they don’t even know that the possibility exists.
And so their goal changed: register 50,000 people in the bone marrow registry by the end of 2015.
Working with Delete Blood Cancer, the women started their journey in January 2015, holding events at restaurants, talking to college students, and organizing presentations to raise awareness of the importance of bone marrow donation. They’ve arranged for cheek swabs and people registration. Now, as the women close out their trip in Hawaii, 50,000 cheeks have donated DNA samples, leading to 33 matches and five possible life-saving donations. Thanks to these women’s efforts and that of countless others, a bone marrow transplant is a possibility.
To help bring this possibility to others, sign up to be a bone marrow donor.