BOCA RATON, Fla. Â– When, in 2010, doctors told Sam Kimura she had six months to live she had no idea that the diagnoses would eventually lead to her current bone marrow journey, which has her traveling to all 50 states to register potential bone marrow donors.
Kimura (photo, left) was only 17 when diagnosed with severe aplastic anemia. Doctors told her that a bone marrow transplant was her best chance for survival, but there were no matches in the bone marrow registry.
Amino suppressant therapy, blood platelet transfusions and a bunch of medication allowed Kumura to far surpass the doctor's original grim life expectancy prediction. The 22-year-old's aplastic anemia is now in remission.
Now she's trying to help others battling aplastic anemia.
Kimura established Sharing America's Marrow, an organization dedicated to putting as many people as possible in the bone marrow registry in hopes of finding matches for as many people as possible.
She's also hoping that maybe she can find a match for herself.
"For me, it's in the back of your mind when we are here - what if this person is the match for me?" Kimura said during her stop at Florida Atlantic University. Â“Mostly it's for the thousands of other patients out there who are looking for their life-saving hero.Â”
Kimura is a little more than three weeks into a 50-state journey that will last until she reaches Hawaii a few days before Christmas.
Her goal is to register 50,000 people for the national bone marrow registry. So far she's helped about 2,500 people swab the inside of their cheeks and fill out the necessary form. The whole process takes less than five minutes.
Â“A lot of people don't want to listen to you, or if they hear Â“bone marrowÂ” they freak out and they don't want to hear the rest of it, but most of the time (donating bone marrow) is like donating blood,Â” Kimura said.
During her trip Kimura, who is accompanied by her sister Alex (photo, right) and friend Taylor, are taking their message to colleges, concerts and sporting events.
"Anywhere where there are a lot of people and they will let us set up a table," Kimura said.
In the months prior to starting their trip, Sharing America's Marrow held registration drives in Kimura's home state of Kentucky. In six months they registered four people who turned out to be matching donors for people needing marrow.
Florida is the fifth state on Kimura's mission. The first part of the journey was made possible via grants from Kosair Children's Hospital in Louisville and the Stem Cell Foundation. Delete Blood Cancer provided the testing materials and is processing the test results.
Kimura estimates they still need to raise about $150,000 more to complete the mission.
"It's incredible to be alive and to be going on this adventure," Kimura said.
A Care To Click representative was among the people Kimura registered while at FAU. Her website, SharingAmericasMarrow.com, offers a calendar of places the group will appear in the upcoming weeks. We encourage our members to register with the bone marrow registry when Kimura comes to their state.
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