The bone marrow donor drive is being done for people like Houston Police Sgt Jeff Headley who was diagnosed with leukemia 20 months ago. Treatments have not been working. He learned a few weeks ago that a bone marrow transplant is his only option.
"Doctor's have given me 18 months to live, and beyond that 18 months... I've got four little kids and that's not enough. So, thank God I found a match and there is hope for me, but you know it's really given me a purpose for the other 3,000 people out there right now who are waiting on a match and don't have one."
Headley is helping 12 year old Pat Pedraja who also has leukemia. Pedraja is responding to treatment but knows many others with blood diseases don't have the same success. That's when a bone marrow transplant becomes necessary. Pedraja is touring the country with a simple message.
"I'm telling everyone it's easy. It's a cheek swap and then they could be the one to save a life."
The first responder community was out in force doing the cheek swabs with q-tips to be a part of the National Marrow Donor Program. Houston is the next to last stop on Pedraja's summer journey to get people to register. He originally had a goal of 2,007 people. He expects to cross the 5,000 mark with the visit here. Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center's Chief Medical Officer Doctor Susan Rossmann says every person makes a difference because for a bone marrow transplant to work it has to be a perfect match.
There are now two ways to donate marrow.
"Either you give bone marrow which is a simple procedure done under general anesthesia it takes a couple of hours and you might be sore for a day or two or sometimes people now give or sometimes people now give peripheral blood stem cells which is kind of like a platelet donation procedure where you're completely awake and it takes a couple hours."
Sgt Headley is now waiting to hear back from the registry to find out if his match will go through the procedure. It's a more daunting procedure for Headley, but it's his only option.
"They'll know it's successful because, say if you're a type B blood and I'm type A+, I'll be a B when it takes hold, so they will know at that point whether it's successful. And of course tests down the road will show if I'm completely in remission or not. The main thing is to live through the transplant because it's not easy, and once you live through the transplant then that's success right there. We'll see how that goes, but there's a 90 percent chance that if the transplant takes hold and I live through the transplant it will work and I'll be cured."
Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.