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Woman looking for bone marrow donor among underrepresented ethnic group

Watch the video above: Mississauga woman looking for bone marrow donor against all odds. Laura Zilke reports. 

TORONTO – A woman in dire need of a bone marrow transplant is trying to find a match within her underrepresented community.

Dorothy Vernon-Brown is African-Canadian and was recently diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Chemotherapy has helped and she’s currently in remission but still needs a transplant.

“You don’t know if you’ll ever find a match,” she said. “Next to Caucasians, African-Canadians have the greatest need for stem cells.”

She’s most likely to find a match within her own ethnic community but in Canada, only one per cent of all people registered to donate bone marrow are black.

“We have patients from all ethnic communities that are currently in need of a stem cell transplant and they are relying on members of their community, whether they are living here in Canada or anywhere in the world,” Mary-Lynn Pride, a spokesperson for OneMatch said.

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OneMatch does have access to donor registries in over 70 countries but in Vernon-Brown’s native Jamaica, there isn’t a registry.

There’s no studies as to why the level of African-Canadian donors is so low in Canada but she believes it’s cultural.

“Many of us come here [and] it’s not part of our culture,” she said. “We continue with what we know.”

It’s not difficult to register. A simple cheek swab is all that’s needed to get your name on the donor list.

Now Vernon-Browne, admitting it’s cliché, wants her story to inspire others to sign up for the list and donate what they can.

“This appeal is not for me alone,” she said. “It’s for the other 42 or all 750 patients that are waiting on a stem cell transplant to save their lives.”

With files from Laura Zilke

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