27 April 2012

Help Jeff Chiba Stearns complete his documentary Mixed Match

The Canadian animator Jeff Chiba Stearns, director of the inventive documentary One Big Hapa Family (see my review) is raising funds on IndieGoGo to complete his latest film Mixed Match - a documentary designed to raise awareness about the need for more mixed race bone marrow and cord blood donors.  The sooner this documentary can get the message out to the wider community, the more lives will be saved.  The IndieGoGo campaign ends in 33 hours and your help is desperately needed.  Go to IndieGoGo to learn more and DONATE NOW!!

If you cannot donate money, you can help by getting the word out.  I also recommend putting yourself on the national bone marrow registry so that you can help save lives.  See the bottom of this post for information on how to do this for Canadians and Americans.

In the words of the filmmakers:

The Story

Mixed Match is an inspirational, emotional, and evocative feature-length documentary that explores the need to find mixed ethnicity bone marrow and cord blood donors to donate to multiethnic patients suffering from life threatening blood diseases such as leukemia.  This live action and animated film is a dramatic journey focusing on the main characters’ struggles to survive against incredible odds. 

The documentary will lead the viewer through the lives of young patients and families struggling to overcome life-threatening blood diseases.  While presenting medical concerns, Mixed Match will be a character-driven documentary that will highlight a number of exceptional, courageous, and inspiring participants. The film will follow recently diagnosed multiethnic patients in search of donors, some of whom must struggle to hold on to hope through countless rounds of excruciating chemotherapy as they spend months searching for a match.  A patient who is in remission after a successful stem cell/marrow donation will also be documented.  Another patient’s story is told through his surviving family members, as he was not able to find a suitable marrow match and, as a result, ultimately succumbed to his illness.  Lastly, the documentary will feature a joyous and heartfelt reunion between a donor and patient after a successful transplant, as the two meet for the very first time.  
Mixed Match is an important human story told from the perspective of youth who are forced to discover their identities through their deadly illnesses and how their mixed backgrounds threaten their chance at survival, thus highlighting why in this day and age, knowing our history and cultural heritage still matters.
The film is being produced by Meditating Bunny Studio Inc. (www.meditatingbunny.com), working very closely with Mixed Marrow (www.mixedmarrow.org).

The Impact

Race and ethnicity play a critical role in finding a marrow match for those suffering from fatal blood diseases. It is a lesser-known fact that in order for a marrow or stem cell match to occur between a patient and a donor, genetic markers on cells must line up.  Because these markers are inherited from parents, their children are a blend both of their parents’ markers.  Thus, for mixed patients, their mono-racial parents and relatives will not likely be a match, and their siblings only hold about a 1 in 4 chance of being a match. Many markers on the cells are specific to certain ethnic groups so multiethnic people have a difficult time when their tissue typing has unusual or uncommon combinations.  To put this in perspective, if your background is Egyptian, Japanese, and Russian, there is a likely chance that only another person with a similar ethnic blend could be a possible donor if you are diagnosed with leukemia.

Mixed Match addresses the fact that every year over 30,000 people in North America are diagnosed with life threatening blood diseases. For many patients, a bone marrow transplant is their only chance at survival. Currently, in the US, of the 7 million registered bone marrow donors and 100,000 cord blood donors, less than 3% are multiethnic.  This statistic, although proportionate to the population of mixed people in the country, poses a substantial challenge to a mixed patient given the endless variety of possible genetic combinations in the registry.  Finding a multiethnic marrow match in the public registry has been compared at times to “finding a needle in a haystack” or “winning the lottery.”  Therefore, this is a very timely and important issue. 

According to the 2010 US Census, the number of people who associate with having more than one ethnic background has increased by almost 50% since 2000.  Despite the rapid growth of the multiracial population in almost all reaches of the world, many people do not realize the risks that lie ahead for mixed people with blood diseases, and the hardship that comes with an almost endless search for a donor match.  
In Canada, there are only 1,694 searchable registrants identifying as multiethnic out of the over 277,000 that are currently on Canada's stem cell Network according to OneMatch.  We need to increase this number to help save lives. 

With this film, we are setting out to achieve two goals:
Spread awareness of the challenges and complexities faced by mixed people with blood diseases.
Encourage all people from all backgrounds to join the bone marrow registry and donate core blood to increase the likelihood of finding multiethnic marrow matches.  There are some rare cases where mixed people find matches from monoracial or people of different mixes so it's important to have everyone's support!

Other Ways You Can Help

Another great way to help us complete this movie would be to spread the word about this fundraising to your friends and acquaintances, as well as visiting the Mixed Match page (www.facebook.com/mixedmatch) and clicking the like button so we can keep you updated on our progress.  Of course we encourage you to join your national bone marrow registry and hopefully help save a life.  Please check out www.blood.ca (OneMatch) in Canada andwww.marrow.org (Be The Match) in the US for more info on how to register.  
Check out a CBC radio interview where Jeff, the director, talks about the importance of making Mixed Match at this link: http://www.cbc.ca/nxnw/featured-guests/2012/03/29/jeff-chiba-stearns-documentary-mixed-match/