Mail-in kits ease sign-up process for marrow donors
Isle residents who cannot make it to a bone marrow drive and want to become a donor can register now by mail.
"We can't be everywhere in Hawaii, and it's not fair to people on the neighbor islands," said Roy Yonashiro, donor recruitment coordinator.
He said the new program allows people short of time or living in remote areas to call for a registration kit, fill out a registration form and follow simple instructions to swab their mouth.
Free kits are being mailed only on a one-on-one basis, he said.
The Hawaii registry and others across the nation switched in April from blood samples to a buccal swab method.
The swab technique "has made it easier for people who say they don't have time, they're shopping with a kid and they don't want to get poked with a needle," Yonashiro said. "This makes it easy and painless."
It also makes it easy for people to register on their own, he said. The kit includes a registration form and buccal swabs similar to cotton swabs.
After swabbing the inside of his or her mouth, the donor sends the sample and registration form to the Hawaii Bone Marrow Donor Registry at St. Francis Medical Center.
The registry then sends the sample to the National Marrow Donor Program repository for testing and storage.
Yonashiro said he will get the name and phone number of those requesting kits and verify who they are.
"When they fill out the form, we're going to have to take a chance that they're of legal age, answering honestly and in good health," he said. "All we ask is they put a stamp on it and send it back to us."
Postage will cost 63 cents, he said, noting it is far less expensive than registering online with the National Marrow Donor Program, which requires a $52 check for processing.
Yonashiro said it is hoped the easy swab process, coupled with the convenience of registering by mail, will encourage more people to sign up as bone marrow donors.
Unrelated donor matches are needed for lifesaving marrow transplants for Hawaii patients and others around the world because only about 30 percent of patients find a matched donor in their families, according to the registry.
The Hawaii registry, established in 1989, lists more than 66,000 donors throughout Hawaii, Guam and American Samoa.
Donors must be between ages 18 and 60 and in good general health. They need to register only once.
To obtain a registration kit or update donor information, call 547-6154 on Oahu or 877-HI-DONOR (443-6667) on the neighbor islands.
More information also is available at www.stfrancishawaii.org/hawaiibonemarrow.