Cliff Ackerman and Nechelle Ervin are both account executives for the local Be The Match® program at Baylor Research Institute. But they have something even more special in common. Each has been one side of a matched pair: Ackerman as a marrow transplant recipient, and Ervin as a marrow donor. Their personal experiences have given them an especially strong connection to the work they do.
When spreading the message about Be The Match®, the national nonprofit organization dedicated to helping patients with blood cancers such as leukemia to receive life-saving marrow and umbilical cord blood transplants, Ackerman said he uses his personal story to encourage others to join the Be The Match Registry® as potential marrow donors.
“We just need people to become more aware and informed,” he said, “because we are talking about an organization that is doing research and giving hope.
“And at Be The Match® we have hope: It’s you. It’s everyone in the community.”
After being diagnosed with Stage IV non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma more than a decade ago, Ackerman spent two years receiving chemotherapy and radiation treatments. When it became clear that the treatments weren’t working, he joined a clinical trial for reduced-intensity marrow transplants.
He soon discovered, though, that finding a match would not be easy. Even with two older sisters and a fraternal twin sister, Ackerman had no matches within his family, something that is not uncommon.
It turned out his perfect match resided halfway across the country, in Chevy Chase, Md. After that man underwent the marrow collection near his home, the marrow was transported to Texas, where Ackerman received his transplant in June 2000.
“Everything worked out fine, and now – health wise – I’m doing very well, am disease-free and blessed,” he said.
Within a year after the procedure, Ackerman began volunteering at Baylor’s marrow transplant unit. Now, the recipient-turned-recruiter (an eight-year Baylor employee), works full time in recruitment and community development.
From the Donor’s Perspective
Ervin’s involvement as a donor also motivated her to join Baylor’s Be The Match® recruitment team. She had signed up for the registry at a health fair and soon learned she matched a young man with leukemia in California.
“Once you match with someone, it is like winning the lottery,” she said. “You have possibly saved somebody’s life and there is no greater gift.”
Ervin underwent the donation procedure locally in June 2005 and the patient received the transplant on the West Coast. Now in college, he is doing very well thanks to Ervin’s selfless act.
“The first thing people ask is, ‘Wow, did it hurt?’” and she tells them that it was nothing compared to the pain her recipient went through as a cancer patient. “He went through a lot of chemo and a lot of radiation, so he was sick all the time. He missed two years of school because he was always so sick.”
Marrow transplantation involves more than just matching a blood type – it requires that both donor and recipient have near-identical ancestral lines. And even when they do, there’s a risk that immune-system challenges could complicate the transplant.
Sometimes, though, the match is simply perfect.
To celebrate National Marrow Donor Awareness Month in November, Ackerman, Ervin and other representatives from Baylor’s Be The Match team are planning a host of recruitment events throughout the month. To learn more about the upcoming recruitment events or about donating, call Pamela Kurian at 214-820-8165.
ADDITIONAL MARROW DONATION FACTS:
- For people with life-threatening blood cancers a cure exists.
- Be The Match® connects patients with a donor for a marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant.
- Every four minutes someone is diagnosed with a blood cancer. SOURCE: Seer
- Most patients in need of a transplant do not have a matching donor in their family.
- Be The Match® at Baylor Dallas is the only center in Texas that facilitates all four aspects of the registry – donor, transplant, apheresis and collection center.
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office: (214) 820-7556
cell: (214) 755-0010
About Baylor Scott & White Health
As the largest not-for-profit health system in the state of Texas, Baylor Scott & White promotes the health and well-being of every individual, family and community it serves. It is committed to making quality care more accessible, convenient and affordable through its integrated delivery network, which includes the Baylor Scott & White Health Plan, Baylor Scott & White Research Institute, the Baylor Scott & White Quality Alliance and its leading digital health platform – MyBSWHealth. Through 51 hospitals and more than 1,200 access points, including flagship academic medical centers in Dallas, Fort Worth and Temple, the system offers the full continuum of care, from primary to award-winning specialty care. Founded as a Christian ministry of healing more than a century ago, Baylor Scott & White today serves more than three million Texans. For more information, visit: BSWHealth.com