OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network

Anthony Codrington

We often hear from OneMatch that “you can be the one match to save a life.” This could not be more true for Anthony Codrington as there was only one stem cell matching donor in the entire world whose generosity could save his life.

Friends and loved ones call him Ricky, and his story began nearly 15 years ago when he moved to Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley from sunny Barbados. It’s here that he met a Nova Scotia woman, fell in love and got married with great anticipation for building a life together.

Soon after, all was put on hold as Ricky was diagnosed with leukemia and his only hope for survival was to find a matching stem cell donor. Unfortunately for Ricky, not all stem cell donors are alike, and matching ethnically diverse donors to ethnically diverse patients is even more challenging. This is due to specific HLAs (human leukocyte antigens) that are inherited from both the mother and father and are crucial when matching patient to donor.

For this reason patients are most likely to find their donor from within their own ethnic group. Even more challenging is matching black patients to black donors as they represent one of the smallest registrant groups - only 0.7 per cent of all potential stem cell donors on the OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network - when searching for black Canadians patients.

Following his diagnosis Ricky was transferred to the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital transplant centre in Halifax. While the search for his donor continued on the OneMatch Network, Ricky would depend on numerous blood donations to maintain his health. But even accepting blood donations was hard for Ricky as people from different ethnic groups have increased complexities when matching blood types.

Facing this dire combination of blood and stem cell needs, Ricky’s health, his life, the impact on his family were now in the hands of the black community in Canada in hopes of receiving his match.

Finally Ricky and his family received the news they had been waiting for. Ricky had indeed found his match.

“When you are told that 75 per cent of patients will rely on matching an unrelated donor, you really understand the odds of survival,” says Ricky. “Being black reduced even further the ability of finding my match then as it is now. I was one of the very fortunate few that found his match to continue living.”

Yet, Ricky’s journey was just beginning as he slipped into a coma for over a month and the health of his donor put Ricky’s chances of transplantation at risk.

Happily, Ricky rallied and his stem cell transplant was able to go ahead.

Now, four years later, Ricky states that he cannot live a day without thanking all the people responsible for his gift of renewed life through blood and stem cell donation.

The Need for Diversity

Ricky’s story is inspiring. It shows us the power of one, and the power of many. Most importantly it highlights how communities, wherever they may be, need to come together to support one of their own.

Jennifer Philippe, OneMatch Director, confirms this commitment to awareness is the core strategy for the OneMatch team as they continue to take progressive steps towards engagement within not just the black community, but within all of Canada’s ethnically-diverse communities.

“Education through awareness is key to our success. Once people know their future depends on their community taking part in the solution, they are eager to help,” says Philippe. “All it takes is a dedicated community champion who tells their community, ‘a simple cheek swab is all it takes to renew hopes for diverse stem cell transplant patients and their families across Canada.”

“Providing an optimal stem cell Network for all Canadians is our first priority and working with diverse Canadian health-care leaders is vital to having more options available for our patients. We need more happy endings to this story as Ricky’s,” says Philippe.

 

Rick’s OneMatch Story (YouTube video)

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