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Jamaican Woman Urgently Needs Stem Cell Donor

Jamaican Woman Urgently Needs Stem Cell Donor

By Neil Armstrong
Pride Contributing Writer

TORONTO, Ontario – A Jamaican Canadian woman who urgently needs a stem cell transplant is urging the Jamaican/Caribbean community, especially young men (women not excluded) between the ages of 17 and 35 to become donors with OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network (www.OneMatch.ca).

This will increase her chances of finding an optimal donor. The OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow network consists of 72% Caucasian and 28% of ethnic origins. Only 1% is black — something that is a matter of concern for her.

Dorothy Vernon-Brown, a devoted mother, wife, entrepreneur and serial volunteer, was shocked last August when she received a diagnosis from her doctor that she has Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).

A dedicated team of volunteers in the Greater Toronto Area has organized a donor drive for her this weekend at a church in Brampton and on March 2 at a hotel in Mississauga.

Her treatments have gone well but now she is in desperate need of a stem cell transplant to continue to live and prevent a relapse. She is in remission and slowly trying to get back to the usual routine of her life.

“Since I’m in remission my immune system is starting to build again but I still have to be careful because I can still pick up the infections and so on,” she said, noting that because of the disease her immune system had been depressed.

As a self-employed small business consultant, Vernon-Brown was planning to use the summer to take her business, AKB² Small Business Marketing, a notch up by working on the website and revving up the social media campaign.

However, when she was diagnosed, everything was put on hold, and the doctor told her that she would be out of work for at least six months.

Some family plans requiring her involvement had to be put on hold but she asked her children to continue on with their lives as much as they could to maintain some kind of normalcy.

Her husband, Glenmore Brown, a professor at Seneca College and golf instructor, had to tone down his golf teaching in the summer to help her.

Less than 25% of patients needing a stem cell transplant will find a match in their family. Her best chance of finding a match is to find a donor from her own ethnic group. She is of Jamaican heritage with a mixed background of Black and Irish.

“That’s why we decided, you know what, we’ve got to really increase this donor poll to give me a chance and to give other patients who are also waiting for stem cells a chance as well,” she said.

Anyone interested in being a donor can register online at www.OneMatch.ca or attend any of the registration/swab events planned for Vernon-Brown in cities across the GTA.

“There are over 750 Canadian patients like me who are in desperate need of a stem cell transplant. Remember cancer has no friends. It does not discriminate.  You could be the one to save my life. I need your help. We all need your help,” she said.

Every ethnicity has specific inherited haplotypes and/or alleles that differentiate members of that ethnic group from others and provide more opportunities for a successful match.

Patients are most likely to find their donor from their own ethnic group and in order to significantly increase the chances of finding an optimal donor for Vernon-Brown, young, healthy males (women not excluded) between the ages of 17 and 35 are urgently needed.

Younger stem cells from male donors routinely offer patients a better post-transplant outcome by reducing post-transplant complications such as graft versus host disease.

Vernon-Brown who is also the chair of PROJAM describes as extraordinary and amazing the network of people who have prayed, called, emailed, text, enquired, sent cards, books, meals, fundraised or simply loved her through her recent illness. She is deeply grateful for the love and support from her friends, church and business associates.

PROJAM is a non-profit organization that helps newcomers from the Caribbean to settle and integrate.  She was also a board member of the Canadian Association of Women Executives and Entrepreneurs and that body has shown her a lot of support.

She was told that a stem cell transplant is an expensive operation so Jamaicans who need one and can afford it are sent to the United States for the procedure.

The marketing strategist and social media consultant is encouraging people throughout the GTA to participate in this noble cause.

On February 23, there will be a registration/swab event at Kennedy Road Tabernacle Church in Brampton, Ontario geared towards members of the church.

The general public event will be held on March 2 at the Delta Toronto Airport West, 5444 Dixie Road in Mississauga, Ontario from 2 p.m. – 6 p.m.

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