BY PATRICIA P. LACROIX
The first Armenian word I learned was odar. This is not surprising, since it was obvious when I walked into Mark Geragos’ office 11 years ago that I was, indeed, odar. Little did I know then that my association with the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry (ABMDR) as its development consultant would take me on a journey of such professional and personal significance… and that the odar term that the Board Chair of the organization used to describe me then would eventually be supplemented by the word jan.
In between odar and jan are other Armenian words I have learned that mark the journey I have taken with this remarkable organization. Kaghtskegh. Ognel. The ABMDR is special to me not merely for its Armenian focus. Its mission to bring hope and healing to those worldwide who suffer from life-threatening blood-related cancers by recruiting and matching donors to patients requiring bone marrow stem cell transplants is a cause that every person, including myself, can get behind. Who has not known someone with cancer? In my consulting career I once worked on a project to fund facilities and programs to make children with cancer more comfortable at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles.
Through my association with the ABMDR, I have helped enable more than comfort — I have had the privilege of helping this organization prepare for, and facilitate, the saving of lives. Since its first full year of operation in 2001, when 2,500 people were recruited, the ABMDR has recruited an impressive 21,554 potential donors, identified 2,135 patients, found 1,753 potential matches, and facilitated 13 bone marrow transplants.
Unkeruhi. I have provided consulting services for over 30 clients and none has a more committed and loyal cadre of volunteers than the ABMDR. While there are some men giving of their time (for which we are most grateful!), the majority are women who are bonded by serious intent, and an eager spirit.
These are the unkeruhiner — mine and yours — ages 10 to 90, who organize and publicize recruitment drives, educate their communities, and raise funds for processing donors, from Hollywood to Hayastan and everywhere in between. Over its 12-year history the ABMDR has reached well beyond its initial bases of operation in Los Angeles and Armenia into 14 countries across three continents. None of this would be possible without the head unkeruhi of them all, Dr. Frieda Jordan, whose leadership inspires us all.
Hamaynk. The ABMDR not only serves the Armenian community, it is an important contributing member of the larger medical community of bone marrow donor registries, and the scientific community of immunogenetics. It has earned its place among its professional peers.
The ABMDR’s state-of-the-art DNA molecular tissue-typing laboratory is the first of its kind in the Commonwealth of Independent States to receive accreditation from the European Federation of Immunogenetics (EFI). It has also received accreditation from this same agency for its new Stem Cell Harvesting Center. The ABMDR is a member of the National Marrow Donor Program and World Marrow Donor Worldwide. It collaborates with the world-renowned City of Hope, Dana Farber Cancer Center, Glendale Memorial Hospital, Children’s Hospital, and Glendale Adventist Hospital. It also works closely with Armenia’s Ministry of Health and its Oncology and Hematology Institute. The ABMDR has benefited immensely from these associations, and now is in a position to benefit other registries getting started.
At the recent EFI conference hosted by the ABMDR in Yerevan, those just developing their registries in the Caucasus were able to see first-hand the scope and quality of the ABMDR, which now serves as a model to help them set the standards and protocols of their work in their countries.
Parel. Tekhur. During the EFI accreditation review six years ago, I had the privilege of visiting Armenia. There I enriched my life… and my Armenian vocabulary! Everywhere I ventured, the Armenian people shared their beautiful country and culture with me: by day, I learned of the arev and spitak dzuyn on the sarer of Erebuni, and of Astvadz and khachkars at Etchmiadzin and Geghard. And of tekhur at the Dzidzernakaberd monument. And at night: khorovadz, gini, and “Yes parel sirum em!” I know how the scientists from throughout the world who visited Armenia for the first time while attending the recent EFI conference in Yerevan must have felt about being introduced to this new culture: lav! Huys.
The ABMDR has opened up a new world to me. But its true significance is the world of hope it opens up to patients and their families in need. With a resource like this registry, there are no odars; only unkeruhiner (and their male counterparts) here to give each other huys.
With over 30 years of experience in nonprofit management and consulting, Patricia P. LaCroix has served a diverse range of organizations in education, healthcare, social services, and the arts. She has been assisting the ABMDR in its marketing and fundraising efforts over the past 11 years.