Leukemia survivor and Duke Heart NP Dayana Ramos will hold a Be The Match drive at Duke University Hospital on June 24
Prior to June 2020 Dayana Ramos, a cardiology nurse practitioner at Duke University Hospital (DUH), was travelling throughout the world as often as she was able to do so. She had run a marathon, was spending time with friends and family, and was engrossed in a fulfilling nursing career. But that month, seemingly out of nowhere, the avid runner and walker started experiencing bouts of fatigue that she, at first, attributed to effects of the pandemic.
Of her circle of friends, Ramos and others would tell you she was the most health-conscious and fit among them. Suddenly, going up a short flight of steps left her out of breath and she couldn’t complete an easy afternoon bike ride. Within weeks, Ramos received a diagnosis that stunned her family, friends and coworkers: acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). She had just turned 37 and had no family history of blood cancer.
She began remission induction therapy (the first phase of treatment, which kills the leukemia cells in the blood and bone marrow) — spending 35 days on 9100 at DUH. Despite two full courses of treatment, it wasn’t enough. She needed a stem cell transplant, but had no family matches. Seventy percent of patients with blood cancers or other disorders don’t have a blood stem cell donor match in their family.
Ramos and her care team turned to the Be The Match registry, operated by the National Marrow Donor Program, and went through six or seven potential matches before a good stem cell donor candidate was found. The transplant was successful and she is now back at work with our cardiology patients. She was away from work for a year and a half during the pandemic. With her family located in Pennsylvania, northern Virginia and Florida, she limited her contact to just a few close friends and several family members who could rotate through Durham to stay and care for her during treatment.
She was really lucky. Dayana is Latina. Statistics show the odds of her finding a match based on her ethnic background were only 48%. For African Americans, the disparity is even worse: 29%. For White people, the chances are much higher at 79%. Patients are most likely to match with someone of their same ethnicity.
To increase awareness and do what she can to increase representation in the registry, Ramos is holding a Be the Match registration drive at Duke University Hospital on Friday, June 24th from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. outside the Atrium Café. Her goal is to increase understanding about blood cancers and the National Marrow Donor Registry and to increase the field of potential matches. Ideal registrants are between the ages of 18 and 35.
She said she'd like to emphasize that registering is easy and that if a registrant ends up being a match, the costs associated with the donation process are covered and that donating, overall, is pretty easy, and encourages anyone who is interested to stop by and learn more.
Learn More About Leukemia
Duke's leukemia doctors work as a team to detect and treat leukemia, which occurs when the white blood cells produced in the bone marrow do not mature normally. The abnormal cells prevent the body from making healthy blood cells and can't fight infection. Our board-certified specialists provide personalized care to people with all types of leukemia.
Stem Cell Transplantation
A bone marrow transplant — also called a stem cell transplant — is an effective treatment for people who are diagnosed with life-threatening blood diseases. If you have been told you need a bone marrow or stem cell transplant, choosing Duke as your transplant center puts you in good hands. Duke has one of the few programs in the nation to use stem cell transplant as part of the treatment for scleroderma (systemic sclerosis). We also treat sickle cell disease and blood cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma.