A booth will be set up at the Washington Town and Country Fair in August to recruit people to sign up for the bone marrow registry. The booth will be set up in honor of Todd Zick, by his family.
"He was a fun-loving, people-loving person," said his cousin Kyle Zick, who grew up in Washington. "And while he was with us he taught us one thing - he taught us how to live; he was always having fun."
In February of this year, Todd Zick, Chesterfield, passed away after about a four-year battle with leukemia.
It wasn't the leukemia that took his life, but he had contracted pnuemonia, which his body couldn't fight off because of his weakened immune system.
Todd's spirit lives on through his family and friends.
"I don't think people understand the importance of this until someone in their family is affected," said Kyle Zick's fiancee, Maggie Jones.
The goal of the drive is to get as many people on the registry as possible, so that another family doesn't have to go through what Todd went through.
"He was the closest thing to a brother I had," said Kyle Zick. In fact, Todd Zick was supposed to be in his cousin's wedding coming up in December.
Todd was 21 years old when he was first diagnosed with leukemia. He had just moved to Springfield to attend Southwest Missouri State University and was getting adjusted and making friends there.
He was sluggish and tired, just not feeling well at all. He thought he had mononucleosis, a sickness that can also cause similar symptoms.
About one month later, he found out he had leukemia.
Todd went into remission after his first bout of leukemia, but later found out that he would need a bone marrow transplant to save his life.
No one in his family was a match. According to DKMS Americas, the bone marrow donor center that the Zick family turned to for help, only three in 10 people will find a donor match within their family.
With no family match, Todd's stepfather contacted DKMS for help. But the donor registry list is not large and finding a perfect match is like winning the lottery.
"Unfortunately, still, the statistic is that only four out of 10 patients who need a transplant actually get one," said Alina Suprunova, a donor recruiter at DKMS.
Suprunova got to know the Zick family as Todd went through finding a donor.
"We're desperately trying to get more donors, because we see all the time, patients who don't have donors," she said.
DKMS as an organization has been recruiting donors in the United States for 3 1/2 years. The nonprofit began in Germany in 1991.
Since its inception, the program has found more than 20,000 donor-matches for people with leukemia or blood cancer, like lymphoma. DKMS Americas has registered more than 125,000 donors in the United States, allowing more than 200 patients to receive their life-saving transplant.
"That's a really small number," Suprunova said, "considering there are more than 300 million people who live (in the United States)."
After several months of searching, Todd Zick found a donor match in Germany, who he received two transplants from.
"It was nerve-racking," Kyle Zick said of the process. "The registry isn't huge and the whole time you're wondering, 'Will this ever happen?' But when more people register, the chances (of finding a match) go up exponentially."
At the time Todd Zick was diagnosed, Kyle Zick and his cousin Julie Zick were both students at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
They decided to team up and hold a bone marrow registry drive on their campus during the Greek Week blood drive. Both Kyle and Julie have set up and participated in several drives each.
Jones and Kyle Zick said it's important to continue with the drives, even though Todd passed away.
"Even though it didn't work out for Todd, it does work for other people," Kyle said. "It gives you a peace of mind and we want to try and continue what he would have liked to have done."
Suprunova estimated that before he passed away, Todd had participated in more than 30 drives, registering over 5,000 people.
From his drives, more than 100 potential donors have been found, and 20 have donated marrow already.
"I'll never forget when I heard from (Todd) in his early 20s, 'Listen, I read up on this. I know what the stats are. I know my chances are one in a million, but I don't care. I want to help other people,' " Suprunova recalled.
She said Todd showed incredible strength and had a heart of gold.
At the Mizzou drive, more than 1,200 donors were registered, including one student, Katie Quinn, who ended up being somebody's life-saving match. Quinn was featured on the "Today" show.
Kyle said he was happy when he found out about someone at a drive he helped put on the registry was a match for somebody else.
"It was fulfilling," he said. "I might not know them personally, but if that was Todd I know how happy I would be and how happy I was when he found his match."
On top of doing drives with DKMS, Todd Zick also was involved in helping children with cancer, when he was able.
Until one day, he relapsed and got pnuemonia.
Suprunova described his passing away as unexpected.
"He literally was admitted into the hospital and a few days later he passed away," she said. "But he fought this like no one else could have."
Easy to Do
Signing up for the bone marrow registry is an easy process, Suprunova said.
"You don't even have to wait for a donor drive," she said. "You can go online and DKMS will send the kit to your house."
All potential donors have to do is swab their cheeks and send the envelope back to DKMS. The organization has to pay $65 to register each donor, but doesn't require donors to pay if they can't afford it.
"We try to put the word out that any amount helps," Suprunova said, "And 100 percent of the donation will go toward the cost of registering donors. We don't use the money for anything else except registering."
To become a donor, it's important to be dedicated to going through with the donation, Suprunova said, because it feels terrible to call someone and tell them there is a potential match, only to later call them back and say the donor is unavailable.
Jones agreed. "The last thing you want is someone who says they will and then changes their mind."
Registrants must also be between the ages of 18 and 55 and in general good health. You must also weigh more than 110 pounds.
Signing up for the registry doesn't mean you will ever be a match for anyone, but it does mean that you could be a match for someone as well.
Once you are called, there are two options of extracting bone marrow, both are outpatient procedures.
Peripheral blood stem cells are collected through the bloodstream. In this method, donors receive a daily injection of a synthetic protein called fligrastim for four days before the collection.
During the collection, the donor's blood is removed from one arm and passed through a machine that separates the blood from the marrow and collects the marrow. The remaining blood is passed back to the donor through the other arm.
The process takes six to eight hours and is done over a one- to two-day period. Side effects include head and muscle aches, which subside shortly after the collection. This method is similar to plasma donation.
"It's not as bad as people think," Suprunova said. "You are giving a person their life back."
The other option for collecting bone marrow is extraction. In this method, the cells are collected from the backside of the pelvic bone using a syringe. Anesthesia is given, so pain isn't felt during the extraction.
It is a one- to two-hour procedure and side effects include discomfort in the lower back, as well as side effects from the anesthesia.
Only 2-3 percent of the donor's cells are collected for the donation, and they replenish themselves within two to three weeks, Suprunova said.
DKMS helps the donor through the process and the donation.
The Fair Drive
So far, Patients First Health Care and DACA Machine and Tool LLC. have pledged to be honorary sponsors of the registry drive at the Fair. Clemco Industries and hth companies, inc., also have agreed to co-sponsor the event.
The team is still looking for additional co-sponsors.
The drive will take place every day at the Fair, Aug. 4-8, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The booth will be set up in the main walkway near the rest tent area, right across from the first-aid building and by the motor sports arena. The two closest gates are the north gate, where the buses drop people off, and the south gate, by the livestock arena.
To volunteer at the drive, to become a co-sponsor, or for more information, people may e-mail Maggie Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org
To register as a donor right away people may go to www.getswabbed.org