LIMA — It was one of the easiest decisions Stephan Shurelds, of Bellefontaine, has ever made. And he’d do it again.
Because when it’s your mom, you don’t have to think twice.
In January 2015, Stephan Shurelds donated bone marrow to his mother, Dianna Shurelds, of Lima. She was diagnosed with leukemia in 2011. Dianna Shurelds worked for the Allen County juvenile court system and as a pastor at the Greater Works Ministry Church of the Living God in Lima. Now she is doing well, and is grateful to her son for the transplant.
So again, the decision for Stephan Shurelds was not a difficult one.
“She gave me life, I wanted to give her life. If I had to do it all over again, I would,” he said. “I was blessed to have the opportunity to give to my mother. It’s a great thing to do for your mom.”
But Stephan Shurelds wasn’t the first choice for a donor. He is actually only a partial match — what in medical terms is called a haploidentical match. A full match would have been better, and the family even held a local fundraiser to encourage community members to join the national bone marrow registry in hopes of finding one.
“The Lima community has been good to me. I’m greatly appreciative of family friends Daisy and Greg Williamson and all of their help and commitment, as well as my family and former co-workers at the juvenile court,” Dianna Shurelds said. “People will love you if you let them.”
And although no full match was found, Dianna Shurelds, who is African American, said the fundraiser was a worthwhile experience, bringing awareness to the difficulties minorities face when searching for donors.
“White people are not supposed to be matches for blacks. Blacks need someone of color to be a match,” she said.
This is because there is more ethnic diversity among African Americans — and there are simply more people of Caucasian descent on the registry, according to Steven Devine, M.D., the director of blood and marrow transplant at The Ohio State University Arthur C. James Comprehensive Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute in Columbus.
“With European whites, there is a 75 percent chance of finding a matched donor. With African Americans, there is a 25 percent chance. The registry is comprised mainly of Caucasians of European decent,” Devine said.
Stephan Shurelds wondered if there just wasn’t enough information about the registry in the African American community.
“I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s not brought up enough in the community. I’d like to know why. I feel like everybody should look into being on the registry. Everybody needs to know about it, because you never know when it could be someone in your family. It would have been a lot better for her to have a perfect match,” he said.
While a full match is ideal, Devine said a lot of patients can now benefit from the haploidentical — or half-identical — match. Statistics suggest these work just as well as fully matched and are a benefit for minorities, he said.
“Even for African American patients, (no perfect match) is no longer a reason for not moving forward. And it’s all because of research we’ve done (at OSU James) and other large transplant centers. It’s a good, very progressive thing now,” Devine said. “Many more of our patients we transplant are African American because we’re able to find (partial) donors for them.”
Actually, all three of Dianna Shurelds’ children were partial matches, but Stephan Shurelds is the youngest and “at the time, the strongest — always in the gym,” she said.
“We reached a point where we needed to do something. I couldn’t wait any more. My kids were my next best hope. It still brings tears to my eyes, all my children willing to help. It’s humbling, and I’m beyond thankful.”
As far as the transplant process, Stephan Shurelds said on his end “there was a little pain, but not too much. It’s trying to give somebody life again, so it’s worth it.
Dianna Shurelds said she got to see her son before he went for his part of the process, and he “was his normal self — laughing and cracking jokes and he said, ‘Mom, don’t worry. God is with us.’”
The entire process went smoothly, with no complications, and Dianna Shurelds complimented the staff at the James, calling them very professional and caring.
“I have been tremendously blessed, have had people praying for me. Even nurses and doctors were willing to stand there and pray,” she said. “Don’t do it alone and not without faith in God. Don’t go through something like that without God. You’ll see. God will open doors.”
Reach The Lima News at [email protected]