Having received in excess of 30 pints during a battle with a cancer-related disease, Todd Booth of Nicholson knows the importance of donating blood.
So do his church and friends, and as Booth receives what may be a life-saving transplant of bone marrow Thursday, July 3, they’ll be holding a blood drive in his honor at New Hope Baptist Church.
The American Red Cross blood drive, set from 2:00 p.m. to 8 p.m., has two purposes. One is to honor Booth while helping the Red Cross meet its blood needs. The other is to raise awareness of the National Bone Marrow Registry that helped Booth find a donor.
Diagnosed in May 2007 with myelodysplasia — a disease that will lead to leukemia — Booth’s best hope for remission is the transplant of the blood-producing marrow to replace his bone marrow. In the yearlong fight, Booth, 44, has learned a lot about blood and bone marrow.
His road to a bone marrow transplant began when Booth saw Dr. Neel in Commerce to find out why he had a shortness of breath, and the cardiologist discovered that his hemoglobin was exceptionally low.
“He basically said, ‘I don’t know, it could be in the leukemia family,’” recalled Booth. “That was like dropping a bomb on me. To be honest, I thought it had a lot to do with my heart.”
His treatment took him to the Georgia Cancer Center in Athens, where he got his first transfusion of two units of blood and his first diagnosis. He began taking some of the target-specific chemotherapy drugs and getting two units of blood every other week, and platelets as frequently as weekly. After two rounds of chemotherapy, he started maintaining his blood level.
“In August, I was doing great,” he remembered.
By Thanksgiving, however, blood levels were falling again, and doctors at the Georgia Cancer Center decided it was time to get a second opinion, so Booth went to the Dekalb Medical Center for another bone marrow biopsy.
“The doctor said we needed to look at a transplant,” Booth said.
Many of his friends asked if they could be tested for a match. His pastor, the Rev. Mike Stowers, contacted the Red Cross, which got a grant to do some screening. They scheduled the blood drive and added the screening.
“They will just test people with a mouth swab and see if they’re interested in donating bone marrow,” said Stowers, who added that there is no charge for the screening.
“We hope to have at least 50 people,” said Stowers. “Of that, I would expect 35 to be able to donate. I’d like to shoot for a hundred. You don’t have to be able to donate blood to be a bone marrow donor, and people could make a donation to the Red Cross or sign up for the bone marrow registry.”
New Hope Baptist Church is located at 211 Stapler Drive, at the corner of U.S. 441 and Old Kings Bridge Road a mile south of Benton Elementary School.
Booth will enter the hospital Thursday to begin chemotherapy. Essentially, the process destroys his bone marrow to prepare him for its replacement. He’s been walking daily to build up stamina.
Booth operates Auto Paint Specialty, on the Commerce Road in Athens. The family also owns the Carquest stores in Commerce and Jefferson.