Four-year-old Nadia found a suitable stem cell match through a cord blood registry (a database that catalogues voluntary donations of umbilical cord blood). Her family encourages more people to become blood and stem cell donors.

UBCO supports drive to expand blood and stem cell donor registry

Central Okanagan family tells their story and encourages Okanagan residents to donate

For most people, having 26 million options to choose from would seem like good odds. For Central Okanagan four-year-old Nadia Bjarnason and her family, those odds were not quite enough.

Nadia was born with Dyskeratosis Congenita. It’s a genetic disorder that affects one in one million people, can cause premature aging or cancer, and requires a stem cell transplant to treat. After being diagnosed at an early age, Nadia and her parents, Tara Beehary and Thor Bjarnason, began their crash course on the importance of countries building and maintaining blood and stem cell donor registries.

“Because Canada is so ethnically diverse, it’s very important for people to become recognized blood and stem cell donors so we can widen the diversity of the registry,” says Beehary. “Finding a match is like finding a needle in a haystack, and for us, it was a matter of life and death.”

After being diagnosed, doctors told Nadia’s family that she would need a stem cell transplant that would come from an unrelated, volunteer stem cell donor. Suitability is dependent on genetic compatibility and is heavily influenced by the donor and the recipient’s ancestral background.

“There were 26 million stem donors registered worldwide that Canada had access to, and there wasn’t a suitable match as Nadia has a mixed ethnic background,” says Beehary. “In the end, we found a suitable match through a cord blood registry (a database that catalogues voluntary donations of umbilical cord blood) and we were able to find a match.”

Finding the right match is a numbers game. Having a larger registry, comprised of young, ethnically diverse registrants will improve the chances of finding a match, which is why Beehary and her family were glad to hear about a donor clinic that was held at UBC Okanagan earlier this week. The clinic attracted over 80 students, staff, and faculty who rolled up their sleeves.

“We have such a large pool of potential donors here on campus,” says Warren Brock, UBC Okanagan Partners for Life Representative. “It’s great to see more and more of the UBC community getting involved each year.”

As the population grows, so does the need to expand the country’s blood and stem cell registries and access to suitable donors, says David Patterson, director of donor relations, B.C. and Yukon region.

“Every 60 seconds, someone in Canada needs blood, and blood has a limited shelf life so demand is constant,” says Patterson. “The need for blood and stem cells goes hand-in-hand, and we urge everyone to continue helping Canadian patients by donating regularly at the blood donor clinic in Kelowna.”

There are a number of opportunities to donate blood in the Kelowna area, including the permanent Kelowna donor clinic located at 103-1865 Dilworth Drive. The permanent clinic is open Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and every other Saturday.

According to Canadian Blood Services, although about one in two Canadians are eligible to give blood less than four per cent of eligible donors donate blood each year. Blood is used for a variety of applications, including transfusions for accident victims and people undergoing surgery. Stem cells are used to treat some 80 diseases, including leukemia, lymphoma, and various immune and blood diseases.

—Story contributed by UBCO

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Flooding water at West Kelowna Tim Hortons closes lane on Highway 97

This story has been updated with more accurate information. Water flooding from… Continue reading

Flooding water at West Kelowna Tim Hortons closes lane on Highway 97

This story has been updated with more accurate information. Water flooding from… Continue reading

Okanagan team leads animal rescue efforts in Australia

Brad Pattison’s team arrived in Sydney on Monday

Pedestrian struck in front of West Kelowna Walmart

Paramedics and emergency crews responded to the call around 1:30 p.m. Friday

Kelowna grandmother scammed of $14,000 in phone scam

RCMP warn of Grandparent Scam in the Okanagan after December incident

VIDEO: Mass coronavirus quarantines seen in China won’t happen in Canada, authorities say

‘If a case comes here, and it is probably … it will still be business as normal’

Campfires no longer permitted at Kelowna scout camp

City of Kelowna said they rejected Camp Dunlop’s fire permit due to stricter bylaws

Province’s oldest practising lawyer shares advice at her 100th birthday party

Firefighters bring Constance Isherwood a cake with 100 birthday candles

Vernon woman suing McDonald’s for spilled coffee

Woman seeking nearly $10K, says employee failed to put lid on properly

Diners’ health tax not catching on in B.C., restaurant group says

Small businesses look for options to cover employer health tax

Avalanche danger closes Highway 1 near Chase

The highway is closed in both directions east of Chase

B.C. comic wins judgment after club owner slaps cellphone out of his hands

Incident happened last summer when Garrett Clark was performing in Abbotsford

Melted snow uncovers problematic potholes in Vernon

Temperature swings, precipitation behind cracked pavement, city says

Alumni trumpet band strikes emotional chord for Vernon girls

Vernon Girls Trumpet Band will be tooting their horn for the 60th Winter Carnival parade

Most Read