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Drive On - Marrow Donors Sought For Humrichouse
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Mark the date - Jan. 28 - and plan to make time to stop by the Escalon Community Ambulance Station on Ullrey Avenue that day. It could be a lifesaving experience.

A bone marrow drive is being conducted on Saturday, Jan. 28 for longtime Escalon resident Craig Humrichouse, who is in need of a marrow transplant to battle chronic lymphatic lymphoma. The drive is designed to see if there is a potential marrow donor for him here and he is also on the national bone marrow registry in hopes of a match being found.

Diagnosed in mid-March 2011 with lymphoma, he underwent six months of chemotherapy. The retired Livermore-Pleasanton firefighter, who also spent 10 years coaching varsity girls soccer at Escalon High School before being succeeded in the position by his daughter, EHS alum Jamie (Humrichouse) Peoples, said he hopes to get to the ambulance station for a while on Jan. 28.

"I'd like to for maybe part of the time," Humrichouse said on Monday evening. "But I'm not having too much energy right now."

He also said there isn't a specific goal in mind for potential donors, just as many people as have the time and inclination to turn out for the event.

His cancer is currently in remission but Humrichouse said the need for a bone marrow transplant is definite, to keep the cancer at bay.

He was diagnosed last year, after going to the doctor for symptoms of a cold and what he thought was swollen glands.

"I really didn't feel bad, I had a couple of small lumps that would come up one day and then be gone, but then I had a little cold so I went to the doctor and told him of the swollen glands," he explained. "He started palpitating them and let me know right away we were looking at something other than swollen glands."

For those considering a stop at the ambulance station, the procedure for the bone marrow drive will be brief, with just a cheek swab needed. That sample goes on for further testing to see if there's a possibility of a match. And even if the potential donor isn't matched with Humrichouse, there are thousands of people in need of marrow transplants across the country. Someone here could potentially save a life elsewhere.

According to the website, there are 10,000 patients with leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell anemia or other life-threatening illnesses that need marrow transplants.

"This is just the pre-cursor to see if you're close," Humrichouse explained of the local drive. "It only takes a couple of seconds."

Family is most often the closest match, but Humrichouse's only sibling, a brother, was not a match for him, so the search area has been widened.

The marrow donation procedure has advanced immensely over the years so that now it is a relatively quick procedure.

"Basically it's almost like being on dialysis, they take your blood, get the platelets and then put your own blood back," Humrichouse said of gleaning the lifesaving material. "There are even medications they give you beforehand to help you produce more platelets."

Part of the goal of the drive is also to offer that information, that the marrow donation process is not an invasive procedure, but something simple.

The Jan. 28 drive at the ambulance station, 1480 Ullrey, runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

"It's basically for people between the ages of 18 to 60," added Peoples. "It's a really easy process and it goes in to the national donor registry to see if it can be a match for my dad, or for somebody else."

The Humrichouse family is working with BloodSource on the drive. There is no cost to donors accepted for marrow donations; all of that is covered.

"Say if they found someone in New York that was a match for my dad, they would be flown out here at no cost to them," Peoples said.

Humrichouse said the cancer has made it difficult to keep up his pre-illness routine.

"I'm used to going, riding my bike, being involved and that's not happening right now," he said. "Now I get up, take a shower, get dressed, and I have to sit down to rest.

"It's just weird, it's not me."

Frustrated, but determined to battle on, Humrichouse said he has been amazed by the people he has met so far on his journey. His six months of chemotherapy, in Modesto, brought him face to face with many other cancer patients.

"I had no idea there were so many people with cancer," he admitted.

Humrichouse received his treatment at the infusion center at Kaiser Hospital.

"It's a huge infusion center, there's about 25 chairs there and every time I went, all the chairs were full and you never saw the same person twice," he added. "It was a real eye-opener."

And through his own experience, Humrichouse said he has gained tremendous respect for his fellow cancer patients.

"The treatment itself was not a lot of fun," he explained. "I take my hat off to anyone who has gone through chemotherapy."

He also said he is aware of, but has not yet had to use, the various services offered through the American Cancer Society, noting that he has an extensive support system at home.

Humrichouse's wife Kathy, daughter Jamie and her family, and other family members are helping as much as they can and Humrichouse said he hopes some good comes out of the Jan. 28 drive, whether it's for himself or someone else in need of a marrow transplant.

"If not for my dad, they might be a match for someone else's mom or dad, or somebody's baby," agreed Peoples. "Lots of people have leukemia."