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Mom meets woman who saved son's life with bone marrow donation

Keesha Wilson

(NEW YORK) — Alika Jones was one of hundreds of Southeastern Louisiana University students who signed up for the Be The Match bone marrow registry during a homecoming drive in 2013.

Four years later, Jones got a call. She was someone’s match.

“There was a 14-year-old boy who was recently diagnosed with leukemia, and he needed a donor,” Jones told ABC News’ Good Morning America. “I just wanted to help someone, if I could, not have to worry about their child.”

Jones’ healthy cells soon became a lifeline for Josiah Knight, who underwent a successful bone marrow transplant in 2017.

Keesha Wilson, Knight’s mother, said she is beyond grateful for Jones’ life-saving donation and that her son, who lives with Down syndrome, is living his life to the fullest.

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“It was a perfect match. His body was healed,” Wilson told GMA. “And he may not have to say his own words, but if you see his smile, you know, he’s very thankful and grateful.”

Jones said that choosing to donate to Be The Match was “one of the greatest” decisions of her life.

“Next to being a mother, I feel like it’s one of the greatest things that I’ve ever done in my life, to be able to help someone,” said Jones.

The Be The Match drive at Southeastern Louisiana University that led to Josiah’s transplant was done in honor of a familiar alum: GMA co-anchor Robin Roberts, who underwent a successful bone marrow transplant herself in 2012, after being diagnosed with bone marrow myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a rare blood disorder that affects bone marrow.

While Roberts’ sister Sally-Ann was luckily her perfect match, about 70% of patients on bone marrow registry lists do not have a family match and rely on anonymous donors for a cure, according to the Be The Match registry, a nonprofit organization operated by the National Marrow Donor Program, which manages the world’s largest bone marrow donor registry.

Even then, a patient’s chance of having a matched, available donor on the Be The Match registry ranges from 29% to 79%, depending on the patient’s ethnic background.

When Roberts returned to her GMA family on Feb. 20, 2013, she was empowered to make her message. Over the past decade, Roberts and GMA have continued to report extensively about blood stem cell transplants, which can cure or treat more than 75 different diseases, such as leukemias and lymphomas, and spread awareness of the importance of the Be The Match registry.

Now more than ever the need is urgent.

Be The Match reports regional and national recruitment efforts decreased 36% during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, and that only 50% of people on the registry will go on to make a donation when they’re a match for a patient in need.

Be The Match has put a call out in particular for younger donors under the age of 40, as research has shown younger donors help improve overall outcomes for patients, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Southeastern Louisiana University continues to support the Be The Match campaign and, just this month, hosted an on-campus drive where over 230 students signed up for the bone marrow registry in just a few hours.

One decade after the first registry drive at the university, Knight is thriving and 20 years old, thanks to Jones’ donation.

Knight’s family recently traveled from California to Louisiana to meet Jones for the first time face-to-face. Wilson said she wanted to meet Jones because, “Without her, my son wouldn’t be here.”

“Thank you so much … you’re such a blessing,” Wilson told Jones when they finally met. “I really appreciate you. I really do.”

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