Be The Match Seeking BizAv’s Help To Deliver Marrow

Credit: Rob Finlayson

With a dramatic decline in airline flights during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is becoming challenging for some bone marrow donors in rural areas  to travel to distribution sites and for donor stem cells to reach their intended recipients in time for the patient to survive, according to Be The Match. 

Corporate aviation can play a vital role. 

Be The Match, operated by the National Marrow Donor Program, is seeking corporate flights, fractional hours or financial donations to ensure donor cells can be delivered by volunteer courier to the patient’s bedside. 

The issue is confronting patients suffering primarily from leukemia and lymphoma who need a blood stem cell transplant from a related or unrelated donor in order to live. Be The Match delivers the cells from volunteers who donate their marrow to the patients. 

To receive the transplant, the patient first undergoes a treatment with high or low doses of chemotherapy or radiation, which kills the patient’s cancer cells, stem cells and his or her immune system. 

There is only a 72-hour window between the time the patient’s immune system has been shut down and when he or she receives the transplant. The cells also must be delivered at a certain temperature. 

With airlines canceling commercial flights, getting the delivery to the patient in time is a worry. On a recent day, one courier’s itinerary to pick up donor cells changed 22 times, for example. 

In April, Be The Match expects to average 20 collections per day, the organization said. 

“This is where the nervousness is coming from,” said Aaron Hollander, chairman of First Aviation Services, and a volunteer, donor and contributor with Be The Match. “If 10% of the missions can’t get done—that’s two flights a day. Once they shut down your (a patient’s) immune system, that’s it. You’ve got to get it.”

Be The Match has a budget for commercial travel that could be allocated toward fuel costs on corporate flights, the organization said. 

Those who can donate aircraft or fractional hours for the mission should contact Alex Zweig with the National Marrow Donor Program at [email protected]

Molly McMillin

Molly McMillin, a 25-year aviation journalist, is managing editor of business aviation for the Aviation Week Network and editor-in-chief of The Weekly of Business Aviation, an Aviation Week market intelligence report.