Bonnie and Kevin Bee know about needing a bone marrow donor.
Their 10-year-old son Timmy was recently diagnosed with aplastic anemia, which, simply described, is bone marrow failure. Timmy’s only hope is a life-saving bone marrow transplant.
Bonnie Bee is a Collier County Sheriff’s Office corporal assigned to the agency’s Youth Relations Bureau. Kevin Bee is a firefighter/EMT with North Naples Fire Control and Rescue District. They are no longer together as a couple, but they are both doing everything they can to help their son and raise awareness to the need for bone marrow donors.
“You just don’t realize how important all this is until it’s yours,” said Cpl. Bonnie Bee.
Kevin Bee echoed those sentiments.
“This has been an eye-opener for me,” he said. “It has made me see the tremendous need out there. It’s heartbreaking to see these children and adults at the hospital and the only treatment that can help them is a bone marrow transplant.”
Each year, more than 20,000 people, ages 0-74, in the United States are diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses in which a bone marrow transplant from a matched donor is their best treatment option, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A bone marrow transplant replaces a patient's diseased blood-forming cells with healthy cells.
While a related matched donor – a sibling - has been found for Timmy’s upcoming transplant, other children and adults in need aren’t as fortunate.
Cpl. Bee said she had no idea how great the need for bone marrow donors is until Timmy was diagnosed and they were spending all of their time at the hospital.
“You walk in there and you see all these kids who have the ports and they’re constantly being medicated and they have no hair,” she said. “It’s heart wrenching. All I could think of was, ‘How could I help them?’”
The community will get an opportunity to help kids and adults who need a bone marrow transplant or blood at two upcoming donor drives:
* Tuesday, July 8, from 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Collier County Growth Management at Suncoast Schools FCU, 2728 N. Horseshoe Drive. To sign up, contact Mike Bosi at 239.252.6819 or firstname.lastname@example.org
* Thursday, July 10, from 8:30 a.m. to noon at the Collier County Government Center, located at the intersection of U.S. 41 East and Airport-Pulling Road. The Bloodmobile will be parked near the Collier County Courthouse and the parking garage. To sign up, contact Jennifer at 239.734.0737.
Attendees may donate blood, join the Be The Match Registry or both.
Blood donors may walk in, but are encouraged to sign up. No advance registry is needed in order to join the bone marrow registry.
Joining the registry is easy and quick. It involves a simple cheek swab.
Those who join the registry become part of every patient's search for a bone marrow donor. Thousands of patients with blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma, sickle cell and other life-threatening diseases need a bone marrow transplant. Finding a donor is their only hope.
Bone marrow registration is focused on individuals between the ages of 18 and 44, because research shows that younger donors lead to more successful transplants. There are very few medical restrictions.
For more information on the bone marrow registry or to order a registry swab kit to be mailed to you, go to www.bethematch.org.
“The more people that are willing to donate the better the chances are not only for Timmy but for everyone,” Cpl. Bee said.
ABOVE: Picture of Timmy Bee by Cpl. Efrain Hernandez/CCSO