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Family to host bone marrow registry fundraiser

CRYSTAL LAKE – In November, Jill Sciortino went to her doctor to get routine asthma medicine and just happened to mention that she seemed to be bruising easily.

After a blood test, the Cary resident was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, and her life has been a string of hospital stays, doctor visits and medications since.

“She’s 49 years old and fighting for her life,” said her sister-in-law, Jill Johnson. “I keep telling her every day [that] miracles happen every day, and so we just have to hold on to that.”

The rare blood disease, which is terminal, is a condition that occurs when one’s body stops producing enough new blood cells, according to information from the Mayo Clinic Web site.

Sciortino also has paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria, which can be managed, and means her red blood cells break down earlier than normal, according to online medical literature. Both could be cured with a successful bone marrow transplant.

However, nobody in Sciortino’s family is a match. So in an effort to expand the national registry and increase Sciortino’s chances of finding a match, Johnson is planning a Be A Match registry event for mid-August in Crystal Lake.

“It’s just been very difficult,” Johnson said. “The family is definitely all involved. It was very hard for them not to be a match, and so now we have to look to others, ... look at the big picture.”

During the event, which is run through the National Marrow Donor Program, participants will be able to enter the donor registry by giving a mouth swab sample.

“No needles, no blood,” Johnson said. “It gives them your basic DNA [and] it literally takes two minutes.”

Normally, there’s a fee to enter the registry, but this event is part of a new program that the National Marrow Donor Program started July 1. Participants can register for free, and then money raised at the fundraiser goes to the next group that holds a registry event, organization spokeswoman Catherine Claeys said.

“We want to create more opportunities for people to join the Be The Match registry,” she said. “And make a contribution to the program.”

Those who sign up for the registry will be part of the national database, so the event is not solely an effort to find Sciortino a match.

“It’s wonderful,” Sciortino said. “[It’s not] only for me. It’s for as many people as you can get in [the registry].”

If able to receive a successful transplant, Sciortino said she would be disease-free.

“It would cure everything,” she said. “I would go back to leading a normal life.”

• • •

If you go

What: A Be The Match bone marrow registry drive and fundraiser.

When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 15.

Where: Crystal Ice House, 320 E. Prairie Ave., Crystal Lake.

What’s involved: A mouth swab sample will be taken, and participants will be entered into the Be A Match Registry for potential bone marrow donors.

Can’t make it?: Visit www.marrow.org and join the registry through a by-mail swab kit.

Cost: Donations will be accepted at the Aug. 15 event, but signing up for the registry will be free.

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