Posted: Sunday, February 10, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 12:37 am, Sun Feb 10, 2013.
By Rich Suwanski Messenger-Inquirer
Former Owensboro High School and Kentucky Wesleyan College baseball player Chris Herrell has never faced an opponent like the one he's up against now.
Last November, the 39-year-old Cincinnati resident was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, a rare form of blood cancer whose only cure is a bone marrow transplant. To date, no donor in the Be The Match Registry has been found.
"A tissue match must be found to save his life," said Laurie Herrell, Chris' wife of 15 years and also a KWC graduate.
KWC will host a marrow donor registry drive for people 18 to 44 years of age from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Feb. 28 at the Winchester Center and on March 2 at the Woodward Health and Recreation Center.
The donor process begins with a simple cheek swab.
If a match is found, Be The Match Registry will contact the possible donor for blood work and a physical.
If there is a match, bone marrow would be taken from the donor's hip while under anesthetic and transplanted into Chris Herrell.
If a person can't attend the KWC drive, one may sign up online through March 2 at marrow.org, click on "join the registry," and a kit will be sent to the potential donor at no charge. Use the code: REDS03MATCH.
Chris Herrell had his spleen removed six years ago when he was sick with idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, a bleeding disorder in which the immune system destroys platelets, which are necessary for normal blood clotting.
"When we saw his blood work in November, we thought it was the same thing," Laurie Herrell said. "We didn't realize this time it was something worse."
Chris Herrell has long been an avid runner, but became winded during workouts last fall and struggled to keep going.
After adopting a baby girl in September — the Herrell's third child — he kept having more problems and saw a physician in November.
"They did an EKG and an X-ray, but a blood test showed his platelet numbers were low," Laurie Herrell said. "He was referred to a specialist and by the time we saw him, his red and white blood cell counts went down, too.
"It all happened very fast."
She said the news that he had MDS was "shocking."
Chris Herrell is trying to maintain as normal a life as possible. He's a season ticket sales manager with the Cincinnati Reds and continues working to keep his mind occupied and attitude strong.
But when his blood numbers get low now, he receives a two-unit blood transfusion, which lasts from two to three weeks.
"If we don't get a bone marrow donor in time, the disease will progress to a type of leukemia, and we've been told that has no cure," Laurie Herrell said. "But Chris' attitude is good. He believes a match will be found. His faith is strong and his spirits are up. He never waivers."
For more information about the KWC drive, contact Erica Crabtree at 993-5888 or email [email protected].
Rich Suwanski, 691-7315, or [email protected]
Articles and image courtesy