Human is a creature that by nature rejects all the unpleasant, scary, and that's fine. The disease is unpleasant, leukemia is scary. No one will voluntary read and listen about leukemia, bone marrow donation, and transplantation until the trouble affects him or her personally, even only tangentially. So it was with me.
I, like many people, was in blissful ignorance until a tragedy happened with a son of my classmate: he died from leukemia. A few years later I was surprised to learn that there is a registry of bone marrow donors in my city Petrozavodsk, and it is one of the first registries in Russia. And that's all. I didn’t have even as second of doubt: I had to be in the Registry.
This is the unpretentious story of my arrival in the Registry. Since then I have been a volunteer in The Karelian Registry of Bone Marrow Donors. It has been a happy time. Though, probably, a combination of the words "happiness" and "leukemia" sounds at least strange. And yet these years have been filled with meaning and very valuable content. What are they built of? Of meetings, successes, disappointments, insights, downs...
Remember how I got an idea to tell youth about the Registry, "eye to eye", to dispel fears and debunk the myths surrounding bone marrow donations. Young people are only in the beginning of their life, and they need to know that the victory over leukemia in their hands. And I went to the students. Remember how I was worried before the first meeting, how prepared and searched for words. Remember fifty pairs of wary eyes: they knew that I was going to talk about bone marrow donation, but they had no idea what it was, and were drawing in their minds terrible pictures with a drill, drilling their spines... I remember after my first words, "I am a potential bone marrow donor and I am standing here in front of you, alive and well, and no one drilled my bones," a lightweight exhale ran through the audience. The ice melted, and the conversation turned out very emotional and intense. But the main thing happened later. I knew that it is necessary “to sleep” with this information, to have a lot to read and ponder. It is necessary to realize the degree of responsibility for the decision to join the Registry. But that night a very young boy approached me after the meeting with a question, "I turn 18 years old in a week. Where do I come to join the Registry?" It was the first bone marrow donor recruited by me. Later, there were other audiences, other events, meetings and donors, but I will never forget that boy.
I remember another big action in our University, when more than 100 University students became potential donors. Two students - sisters happened to be the most valuable donors for me. They were my school students a few years ago, and I told them about bone marrow donorship in the class. Becoming college students and learning about the campaign holding at the University, they came to the meeting and became one of the first who joined the Registry. My volunteer happiness is building of the situations like this.
The Registry is his people.
One of them is an optimistic Natasha whose new bone marrow has been donated by the donor from Italy. He not only gave her his stem cells. He gave Natasha the second chance for life. He gave Natasha’s little daughter - her mother, and her parents - their daughter... And now she is our main propagandist and advocate of bone marrow donorship. Laughing, she calls herself "live advertisement of bone marrow donation".
The Registry is Andrei and Lena, the organizers of the bone marrow donor movement at the Petrozavodsk University. All our actions, flash mobs, cranes and many, many more are possible and happens thanks to them, their enthusiasm and energy. The Registry is Anton who lives in the most isolated corner of Russia, in Chukotka. On the edge of the earth, he has recruited new bone marrow donors. Because it's right thing to do. Because it is necessary.
The Registry is his history.
This is the story of a three-year old Mirik, whose donor was found abroad, the money for the donor was collected by hundreds of kind people, and two weeks after the transplantation, we received typing results from the last recruiting campaign: one of our new donors was fully compatible with Myric. All the months of the boy’s illness his potential donor was there, in the same city, but we didn't know and looked for donors in the international database... Thank God, we have found it! But if we have not?
It is a tragic and heartbreaking story of 28-year-old Andrew, killed by leukemia: the compatible donor appeared in our Registry a month after the death of Andrew. We tried hard to find a donor for Andrew around the world, but we failed... He left a wife and little daughter...
I don't know what else I can tell and what it is necessary to tell so that all understand: the rescue of patients with leukemia is a duty for each of us. This disease can trap anyone. When we are together, we can fight.
I have been asked many times, "Why do you do this?"
In short – it is necessary to do, that's all. If to go slightly into detail, there are words in my favorite "Little Prince": "Each should be asked to give what he can give." I will allow myself to paraphrase these words: “Everyone should give what they can.” I give what I can give. I do help the Registry, because my want, can and must happily combined here. All together we increase the chances of patients with leukemia. How do we do it? Just go to people and tell what everyone needs to know about bone marrow donation – "eye to eye". And it works: fears go away, the myths debunk, people come to the Registry to save somebody’s life one day, when it will be necessary. There is no other way here: we are humans and we help each other.