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Alika Jones was one of hundreds of Southeastern Louisiana University students who signed up for the Be The Match bone marrow registry during a homecoming drive in 2013.
Four years later Jones received a phone call that would save a life she never knew — until now.
Jones’ healthy cells soon became a lifeline for Josiah Knight, who underwent a successful bone marrow transplant in 2017.
Knight’s family recently traveled from California to Louisiana to meet Jones for the first time face-to-face. Wilson said she wanted to meet Jones because, “Without her, my son wouldn’t be here.”
“Thank you so much … you’re such a blessing,” Wilson told Jones when they finally met. “I really appreciate you. I really do.”
Keesha Wilson, Knight’s mother, said she is beyond grateful for Jones’ life-saving donation and that her son, who lives with Down syndrome, is living his life to the fullest.
“It was a perfect match. His body was healed,” Wilson told “GMA.” “And he may not have to say his own words, but if you see his smile, you know, he’s very thankful and grateful.”
Be The Match is a nonprofit organization operated by the National Marrow Donor Program, which manages the world’s largest bone marrow donor registry.
The lack of Black bone marrow contributes to Black deaths
While White Americans have a 77% chance of finding a bone marrow match, Black Americans have only a 23% chance because fewer Black individuals are registered as donors, according to ‘Be The Match’ foundation.
“Currently, individuals of Black and African American ancestry are underrepresented on the registry, making it more difficult to find donor matches for those suffering from blood diseases like sickle cell,” Mary Halet, director of Community Engagement at Be The Match, said in 2017.
Jones said that choosing to donate to Be The Match was “one of the greatest” decisions of her life.
“Next to being a mother, I feel like it’s one of the greatest things that I’ve ever done in my life, to be able to help someone,” said Jones.
About 70% of patients on bone marrow registry lists do not have a family match and rely on anonymous donors for a cure, according to the Be The Match registry.
Even then, a patient’s chance of having a matched, available donor on the Be The Match registry ranges from 29% to 79%, depending on the patient’s ethnic background.
Be The Match reports regional and national recruitment efforts decreased 36% during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, and that only 50% of people on the registry will go on to make a donation when they’re a match for a patient in need.
Be The Match has put a call out in particular for younger donors under the age of 40, as research has shown younger donors help improve overall outcomes for patients, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Southeastern Louisiana University continues to support the Be The Match campaign and, just this month, hosted an on-campus drive where over 230 students reportedly signed up for the bone marrow registry in just a few hours.