Law firm to host blood, bone-marrow donor drive

GREENFIELD — Everything seemed fine until a few months ago, Amy VanOstrand said. Her husband, Derek Fakehany, was the picture of health — tall and slender, with an unremarkable medical history.

But an appointment requiring some routine blood work changed all of that. The 45-year-old Fakehany was diagnosed with blood cancer earlier this year, leaving the couple hunting for a bone marrow donor to save his life.

Now, VanOstrand, an attorney with Greenfield law firm Allen Wellman McNew Harvey, is asking for Hancock County’s help.

The law firm is hosting a blood drive in Fakehany’s honor Friday in the Courthouse Plaza. Those who come to donate blood also will have the chance to sign up for a national bone marrow donor registry — a process that begins with a simple cheek swab — and can potentially save the life of someone in need of a transplant, like Fakehany.

Fakehany was diagnosed with blood cancer in January. He is living off blood transfusions and regularly receives chemotherapy treatments to fight the cancer, VanOstrand said. But without a bone marrow transplant, her husband will never lead the healthy life he once did, she said.

The couple started looking for a relative to be a bone marrow donor immediately after Fakehany was diagnosed. When that route proved unsuccessful, they sought out friends and are now turning to the kindness of strangers, telling everyone they can about the importance of blood and bone marrow donations, VanOstrand said.

An American Red Cross mobile blood bank will be parked outside the courthouse from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday. Community members can visit redcrossblood.org and enter sponsor code “derek” or call 1-800-RED CROSS to schedule an appointment to donate blood.

Kevin Harvey, a partner at Allen Wellman McNew Harvey, said more than 40 local attorneys, business owners and community leaders have signed up to participate; the firm is hoping 70 people will come to donate blood.

Harvey said law firm’s small staff often feels like family, and the decision to host the blood drive was a way to help the extended members of that family.

Representatives from the nonprofit organization, Delete Blood Cancer, will visit Friday’s blood drive with information about the National Bone Marrow Registry, a network of donors ready to be genetically matched with a blood cancer patient.

Registering to be a bone marrow donor is free to anyone signing up through Delete Blood Cancer, the organization’s website states.

Fakehany admits he never realized how important such blood and bone marrow donations were until he experienced the need first-hand. Fakehany and VanOstrand know the odds of finding a bone marrow donor who is a perfect match for Fakehany at Friday’s event are slim; but getting more people to register as bone marrow donors creates a greater matching pool to help others. About 70 percent of patients don’t have a matching donor in their family, according to Delete Blood Cancer.

When her colleagues at Allen Wellman McNew Harvey came to her about hosting a drive in her husband’s honor, VanOstrand was moved.

“It makes us feel less alone on these path,” she said.

Be a donor

A blood drive will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday on the courthouse lawn. Community members can visit redcrossblood.org and enter sponsor code “derek” or call 1-800-RED CROSS to schedule an appointment to donate blood.

You can also sign up to join the bone marrow donor registry at the event. Staff will take a cheek swab from potential donors to compare with the national database. Giving blood is not required to sign up.

Author photo
Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.