After reading an article about a woman struggling to find a bone-marrow match that would save her life, a D.C.-based doctor organized a last-minute donor drive at an annual Ethiopian soccer tournament and cultural celebration this weekend.
This weekend, an estimated 30,000 Ethiopians will flock to Renton for the annual Ethiopian Sports Federation in North America’s (ESFNA) annual soccer and cultural conference.
Visitors will be able to watch a 31-team soccer tournament, celebrate Ethiopian culture, and — in an attempt to save the life of a Vancouver, B.C., woman with leukemia — they’ll be able to register to be a bone-marrow donor.
When Aytenfisu realized there’d be thousands of Ethiopians in Seattle for the ESFNA conference, he pleaded with the organization to let him throw a drive at the event.
“The request did come in late,” conference spokesman Samson Mulugeta said. “But in the spirit of the community, we thought, logistically, we’d make it work.”
Conference organizers granted Aytenfisu and Be The Match space to educate visitors about bone-marrow donation, perform cheek swabs and register attendees on the spot. Doctors will volunteer their time to explain what donation entails, why there’s currently a lack of Ethiopian donors on the international registry and other health issues facing African communities.
While the goal is to find someone who is a match for Nega, she added, the more Ethiopians that register will help anyone with a similar ethnic makeup who needs a match.
Donors must be comfortable with the idea of donating to a stranger, Fairhurst said. It’s unlikely to find a specific match in a group of friends, but very possible a donor could match with someone across the country, or internationally.
Those interested in registering to be a donor, but aren’t going to the ESFNA conference,. can do so online. Cheek-swab kits are mailed to interested donors and tested for specific protein markers that match with someone in need.