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Blood, bone marrow registry drive set for today

By John Darling

for the Tidings

The American Red Cross will hold a blood and bone marrow donor registry drive this afternoon to help former Jackson County parole and probation officer Matt Gonzales in his fight against leukemia.

Gonzales, 37, who now lives in Yreka, Calif., and is a warden for the California Department of Fish and Game, is weak, experiencing a depletion of white blood cells and receiving treatment at Rogue Valley Medical Center, said his son John Rogers, an environmental studies student at Southern Oregon University.

Gonzales' longtime friend and colleague, Bob McCurley, a Medford police officer, said: "He's a real young man. It's a tragedy for this to happen to anyone but it hits close to home when it's a friend and someone so young. We were barbecuing with Matt and his wife, Michelle, and he seemed strong and healthy and now he's lying in a hospital bed and lost a lot of weight. It impacts you quite a bit."

Finding the right match for donations of bone marrow is a difficult and urgent process and only 30 percent of leukemia patients are able to find a match in their families, said Christina Dunlap of the Red Cross in Medford, who called the registry "a second chance at life" for those with the disease.

You can register as a possible donor from 1 to 6 p.m. today at the Red Cross Center, 1174 Progress Drive, Suite 102, next to the Driver and Motor Vehicle Services office. Donors can register for the "marrow-thon" at www.givelife.org or just show up. The event is also a regular blood drive.

Rogers will be shuttling donors from Ashland to the Medford site, loading passengers at the Water Street parking lot outside the pizza house where he works. For rides, call him at 541-274-0813.

For the marrow registry, donors must be between 18 and 60, fill out a health questionnaire and give a small saliva or blood sample.

Those later selected as donors will be given an information session and a physical.

There are two ways to donate, according to www.marrow.org, and the majority of donations do not involve surgery. The patient's doctor most commonly requests a blood stem-cell donation, which is nonsurgical and outpatient. If the patient's doctor requests marrow, it requires a surgical procedure, usually outpatient. Donors normally pay $80 for lab fees, but fees have been waived for this event, said Dunlap.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.