When he needed help the most, it was a perfect stranger who made all the difference for Santa Clara County law enforcement officer Jason Jones, giving him hope and the help his family and friends were unable to provide—an almost perfectly matched bone marrow transplant to combat the rare form of leukemia he was diagnosed with October 30, 2013.
“It all happened really fast,” says Jones’ wife Rebekah Jones. Just a few days after Jones went to the emergency room because of a nine-day migraine, Jones was given the worst of news. He had an aggressive form of cancer called acute myeloid leukemia. On November 4 he had his first round of chemotherapy.
At the same time, through the nonprofit Be The Match Registry, Jones was entered into a U.S. and international registry to match those with life-threatening blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma with unrelated donors.
Jones is not alone in needing the help of a stranger. Seventy percent of patients in need of a life-saving transplant do not have donors in their family and must reach out to strangers for matching bone marrow, peripheral blood stem cells, or umbilical cord blood. In March, a matched donor—having nine out of 10 points of compatibility—was found for Jones. In comparison, his brother was only 50 percent compatible.
“It’s a really odd place to be, but they found a donor quickly. I got lucky because of my European ancestral background,” says Jones, now in the hospital recuperating after his mid-April bone marrow transplant. “There are a lot more white donors in the registry than anyone else. It would make the registry better if more people of other races and ethnicities signed up, too.”
In January, Jones’ colleagues in law enforcement hosted a donor drive, and 56 new people joined the Be The Match Registry. It’s easy and there is no charge. All it takes is a simple swab of cheek cells. People 18 to 44 years old are needed. For details, visit www.bethematch.org.
On April 5, Jones and his family and friends participated in the San Jose Be The Match Walk and Run to raise funds to support marrow transplant research, help patients with uninsured treatment costs, and add donors to the registry. In 2013, Be The Match facilitated 6,300 transplants, bringing the total to 61,000 transplants since 1987.
A fundraiser dinner will be held June 8 in San Jose to benefit Jones and another Santa Clara County law enforcement officer. For information, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/691068887619745/.
Rebekah and Jason Jones, who have an 18-month-old son, Silas, celebrated their seventh wedding anniversary May 5th in the hospital, where Jones will remain in a sterile room until his immune system rebounds.
“I feel peace for today,” says Jones. “I try to smile. It’s a daily choice to be happy and smile.”
“We can never thank our donor enough—whoever she is,” says Rebekah. “Maybe someday we’ll know.”