Marrow Donor Image

She was the match

Christa Wilkinson was among 106 Sounders FC fans who answered the call when the club held a Bone Marrow Registry Drive last season. Recently, her bone marrow was matched and she went from registrant to donor.

If there is one thing that can be said about Sounders FC fans, it’s that they don’t lack perspective.

Last August, the Sounders FC held a Bone Marrow Registry Drive at Qwest Field. Real Salt Lake midfielder Andy Williams’ wife Marcia Williams has a rare form of leukemia and Andy’s good friend and Sounders FC defender Tyrone Marshall sprung to action calling on Sounders FC fans to join the National Registry. Marshall, who has been friends with fellow Jamaican National Team member Williams since a young age, was joined at Qwest by several of his Seattle teammates in the Registry Drive as well as over 100 fans.

One of those fans was Christa Wilkinson. Her sister and brother-in-law told her about the event and she was quick to take part in the drive. The Tustin, California native and third year Interior Design student at Bellevue College has never hesitated at the opportunity to take part in something to help someone in need.

Sure enough, Wilkinson was found to be a match for a patient. Notified over the phone, Wilkinson didn’t initially answer the call because she didn’t recognize the number. When she found out it was from the Be The Match program, she was ecstatic.

“It doesn’t happen a lot,” Wilkinson said, noting that fewer than 30 percent of those who need donors end up finding matches. “Everyone knows someone who has had cancer, so it was exciting to know that I could help someone in need.”

She went through donor treatments one day prior to the Sounders FC’s season opener, but was still cheering in the stands on First Kick as Seattle sped off to a 2-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union at Qwest Field.

The on-field success of that first match pales in comparison to the success of the club’s charitable efforts.

“First of all, you have to give thanks to Sandy Gregory (Director of Community Relations) and everyone else at the Seahawks and Sounders FC organization that really came through and set it up,” said Marshall. “It wasn’t just the Sounders players. It was a Herculean effort by the people behind the scenes to get all that done.”

“We set it up to see if anyone was a match for Andy’s wife, but also for other families that are in need. It just shows that it goes way beyond our city or country. It’s a worldwide thing. It’s a big effort and our part was just to put our two cents into the whole mix and it’s gratifying to know that someone else in a different part of the world can receive the help they need.”

Marcia Williams spent most of last year in Seattle at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, heightening the emotions of Real Salt Lake’s MLS Cup win over the LA Galaxy in Seattle no less.

Marshall and the Sounders FC will face Andy Williams and Real Salt Lake this Saturday at 6 pm Pacific Time (TV on KONG 6/16, radio on 97.3 KIRO FM). It will be a mixed bag of emotions for Marshall, who keeps in frequent contact with the Williams family as they go through the recovery process.

“She’s doing well. She’s doing her treatments at home. She’s not out of the woods yet, but she’s at home with her kids and her husband and that can go a long way in your recovery,” Marshall said. “It’s going to be emotional seeing them, but it will be a little gratifying knowing that she’s out of the hospital and she’s making progress.”

Currently, there are 10,000 patients throughout the world who need a bone marrow transplant, but sadly only 3,000 will receive one.

Patients needing a bone marrow transplant are most likely to find a compatible match within their own racial and ethnic background, so a diverse group of potential donors is needed. The National Registry currently is 75% Caucasian, 8% African American, 7% Asian/Pacific Islander, 7% Hispanic, 2% Multi-Racial and the least represented among registrants are Native Americans at only 1%.

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