Bone marrow registry event to take place on Friday in support of a 2-year-old boy

By Brittney Nadler

University students will have the opportunity to register for bone marrow donation in support of a 2-year-old boy battling a rare genetic autoimmune disorder. 

Be the Match On Campus, an RSO at the University, is hosting the registry event on March 14 from noon to 6 p.m. at four locations: the Union, Ikenberry Commons, Allen Hall and NIKA house.

Joseph Heath, the son of Urbana police sergeant Jennifer Difanis, has a disorder that can only be cured with a bone marrow transplant. The bone marrow registry on Friday may be the last hope for Joseph, said Amanda Howie, donor relations coordinator for Community Blood Services of Illinois.

Difanis and her husband, Jeremy Heath, a Rantoul police officer, are asking the community to join the bone marrow registry for their son’s second birthday, which was Feb. 28. To join the registry, participants fill out an application and receive a cheek swab. After registering, potential donors may be called to save a patient’s life if there is a match.

“Of course, when people join the registry, their first question is always: Will it hurt?” said Howie.

There are two ways a potential donor can be asked to give. Howie said 75 percent of the time, donors will give plasma while the other 25 percent is a bone marrow draw.

“Don’t worry. It’s not like you’ve seen in a movie,” Howie said. “You are always under anesthesia, and most donors wake up and say they feel like they fell on the ice. It’s not painless but definitely not as bad as most people think.”

Even though those that register on Friday may not be a match for Joseph, those donors may be the match for other patients seeking transplants. There is about a one in 540 chance that a registrant will match a patient, according to the Be the Match website

Howie encourages anyone with questions to go to or call Community Blood Services of Illinois at 217-367-2202.

“When you think about the patients who are receiving this gift of life, the sacrifice is actually very small.”

Brittney can be reached [email protected]