Birmingham father with life-threatening blood disease looking for marrow match

    Birmingham father with life-threatening blood disease looking for marrow match (Photo Credit: Brandon Harris)

    A Birmingham father is searching for a cure for his life-threatening blood disease, and he needs your help. Brandon Harris is in search of a match so he can continue spending time with his 5 year-old daughter.

    Harris was featured by "Be the Match" during the Alabama AA&M vs. Alabama State basketball games Saturday evening.

    "Be the Match" is the national marrow donor program, and operates the largest and most diverse bone marrow registry in the world. According to "Be the Match", every 3 minutes someone is diagnosed with a blood cancer.

    For patients like Harris, drives like the one held Saturday are a way to find a cure through a bone marrow transplant.

    "Even if I can't find a match for myself, I can find a match for somebody else. That's just a blessing for me as well. Anybody can help anybody you know?" says Harris.

    Harris has aplastic anemia. The way he puts it, his bone marrow works like an 80 year-old man instead of the 25 year-old man that he is. He was diagnosed in February of last year.

    He's been looking for matches for transplants since then. The disease makes him tired and prevents him from being able to do some of his favorite things.

    "Play tea parties, play one of the princesses... I can't be a prince. I have to be one of the princesses," says Harris.

    Playing tea parties and princesses with his 5 year-old daughter, of course. The two also enjoy playing outside and listening to music together.

    Harris' challenge is that, as an African American, he only has a 23% chance of finding a match on the registry. So, the Alabama State vs. Alabama AA&M game, with two historically black colleges playing, was a shot he was willing to take.

    Alabama AA&M's First Lady, Abbiegail Hugine, came through with the assist. For several years, she's been encouraging students to join the registry. She knew the game would be a great place to find people interested in joining.

    "We don't know how we can save a life by becoming a part of the registry," says Hugine.

    Rachel Harris, community engagement representative with "Be the Match", helps get the process going.

    “We’ll mail you some cheek swabs, you’ll complete those at home and mail them back and that’ll add you to the national registry and at any point in the future if you’re thought to be a match, for any patient in need, we’ll contact you,” says Rachel.

    If you're between the ages of 18 and 44 and you're willing, you could help with a slam dunk. Even if you aren't a match for Harris, you'd still be putting points on the board.

    "I just want what's best for anybody, so if anybody could sign up, you never know who you could help," says Harris.

    If you'd like to learn how to save a life with "Be the Match", click here. If you'd like to donate, click here.

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