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Nation’s First Marrow Registry Brings About Successful Transplant

November 28, 1985

NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ The nation’s first bone marrow registry has resulted in a successful transplant from a woman to an 8-year-old boy suffering from leukemia, doctors say.

The transplant, performed Nov. 15, was the first under the program to match people in need with potential donors.

Dr. Conrad H. Gumbart, one of two doctors who removed marrow from the hip bone of Gloria Taillon of Gonzales and implanted it into Jose Escobar of Harvey, said the boy ″now has a 35 to 40 percent chance of being rid of his disease long-term.″

″Since Jose had relapsed on two occasions, his chances of recovery were zero,″ Gumbart said.

Jose, still recuperating at Children’s Hospital in New Orleans, did not attend the news conference Wednesaday, but his mother, Paulina, said he feels fine.

″He runs all around, he plays. Inside, he’s better than he was,″ said Mrs. Escobar, a native of Guatemala who speaks broken English.

″It’s just a miracle,″ said Mrs. Taillon, who said she felt elated and honored when she was told she would be a donor.

″I feel God has to bless her,″ Mrs. Escobar said.

Louisiana was the first state in the country to set up a registry for bone marrow donors, said Gumbart and Dr. Rafael Ducos, who worked together to found the registry and perform the transplant.

The list of potential donors is searched each time a patient is identified. Volunteers have a blood test for the complex typing which decides whose marrow is suitable for a given patient.

The chance of finding an exact match is one in 10,000, and the registry has only 1,250 names, Ducos said.

A recent agreement with registries in Missouri, Michigan and Georgia could bring the total to 7,000 potential donors, said Joan Keller of Gonzales, another founder.

Before the registry was founded in 1984, doctors had to check networks outside of the United States for potential donors, said Ducos.

When Crystal Beckler, 10, needed a match in 1983, a British donor was found through the Anthony Nolan Foundation in London.

″I had a few weeks to live and a miracle happened,″ Crystal said at the news conference.

She now can ride a bicycle, play outdoors with other children and do other things she could not have done before because leukemia patients bruise so easily, she said.

Gumbart is assistant professor of medicine and director of the bone marrow transplant program at Louisiana State University. Ducos is director of pediatric hematology and oncology at Children’s Hospital and associate professor of pediatrics at LSU.

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