Greg Hodgdon of Woolwich said he considers himself very lucky to find a match for a bone marrow transplant he needs after being diagnosed with a rare bone marrow disease. Now, he wants to help others like him increase their chances of finding a perfect match. Photo courtesy of Greg Hodgdon

WOOLWICH — When Greg Hodgdon of Woolwich learned he needs a bone marrow transplant, he was lucky to find a perfect transplant match.. Now he wants to increase other peoples’ chances of doing the same.

Hodgdon and his family organized a bone marrow drive where those interested in donating bone marrow can to enter a national database of potential donors.

The bone marrow drive will be held at the Woolwich-Wiscasset Baptist Church on Saturday, Feb. 29 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

According to Ann Evans, community engagement supervisor at Be The Match, a division of the National Marrow Donor Program, there are 14,000 people still waiting for a bone marrow match.

In September 2019 Hodgdon was diagnosed with myelodysplastic/myeloproliferative neoplasms (MDS/MPN), a rare bone marrow disease that prevents his bone marrow from producing mature red blood cells. The solution was to undergo a bone marrow transplant, but he had to find a match first.

Bone marrow is the soft, spongy tissue found inside bones where most of the body’s blood cells develop and are stored.

Until he receives his transplant, Hodgdon will undergo two forms of chemotherapy to clean his blood. One type of chemotherapy he receives in a daily pill and the other is administered for five days in a row each month.

Last month, the global donor database found only one match. Evans said people who are Caucasian have a 77% chance of finding a donor match ,compared to the 23% chance African-Americans have.

“The bone marrow drive was never intended to find a match for me,” said Hodgdon. “I know there are more people than just myself who are looking for a bone marrow match and I want to help increase their chances.”

Every 3 minutes someone in the U.S. is diagnosed with a form of blood cancer, which requires a transfusion, according to Evans.

“Sometimes people get a call that they’re a match for someone decades after they register,” she said. “You could sign up today and be a match for someone who’s not even born yet.”

Hodgdon said entering the donor database takes less than 15 minutes and is completely painless, as it involves only a cheek swab and health screening.

Evans said only people ages 18–44 who are in good health are able to enter the database, as they have the best chance of being a match. Once a donor turns 66 years old, they are removed from the database.

Hodgdon said he liked the idea of holding the bone marrow drive on Leap Day because it gives people the opportunity to “Take the extra day you get and do something great that could potentially save someone’s life.”

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