Bone marrow donations help save lives

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class David D. McLoney
  • 6th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

Since the beginning of 2021, Tech. Sgt. Steven Parina, a 6th Maintenance Squadron aircraft fuel systems repair technician, has been battling with leukemia in a different way.

Parina’s 23-month-old daughter was diagnosed with leukemia, sparking a raised interest and awareness of what his life would become over the next several years.

“My daughter being diagnosed with leukemia catapulted my family into a world relatively unknown to us,” said Parina. “Thankfully, she is responding to treatment as hoped and didn’t need a bone marrow transplant.”

While admitted in the hospital, Parina’s daughter befriended her hospital neighbor, and in return inspired him to start the process of hosting a bone marrow donor registration event here at MacDill Air Force Base from May 24-27, 2021.

The event took place in honor of a hospital neighbor, as the individual has a very low chance of ever finding a match, which pushed the family to also host numerous donor registration events throughout Florida.

During this registration event which was run with the assistance of the Salute to Life organization, Parina’s goal was to inspire 500 individuals to register to donate bone marrow.

“As we continue her treatment plan, we continue to meet other families who are searching for a donor to save or at least extend their child’s life,” said Parina. “I felt the need to do what I could to help and I discovered Salute to Life, a Department of Defense established organization that works exclusively with military personnel, their dependents, and DoD civilian employees to facilitate bone marrow and stem cell donations.”

With this being a DoD established organization, events like the one that Parina hosted are very important in the process of teaching military members and their families about bone marrow transplants. Drives also inform individuals about data related to race.

“It is important for members of MacDill AFB to get involved because we are the perfect candidates to donate based on our age and being in generally good health,” said Parina. “Most importantly, however, it that we are diverse. Donors and patients are not matched on blood type but rather based on the Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) type. These genetic markers are shared by those with similar ethnicities and ancestry.”

According to the Salute to Life organization, 70% of patients cannot find a matching donor within their family. They also mention that statistically, Black or African Americans only have a 23% chance of ever finding a match, Hispanic or Latinos have a 46% chance, and White individuals have a 77% chance, so diversity is extremely important for bone marrow registrants.

A common concern with registration is whether the bone marrow extraction will hurt or not, but in Parina’s experience, the pain was very minor.

“One thing most people are worried about is ‘will it hurt?’ – and my answer is not really,” said Parina. “The truth is, only 1 in 430 people will ever be matched to someone and be called to possibly donate. If you are one of the less than 0.0023% that gets a call, 80% of the time it will only be to donate peripheral blood stem cells. This is a process similar to donating plasma where they take blood, filter what they need, and give your blood right back. The other 20% that do the traditional marrow donation under anesthesia explain that afterwards it only feels like a sore muscle for a couple days.”

As Parina says, that is a small price to pay to literally have a chance to save someone’s life.

Taking the opportunity to save someone’s life can be one of the best gifts a person can give and joining the bone marrow registry can provide that. Although it is important to take the opportunity to help others, Salute to Life wants to ensure that individuals who choose to join are sure they are completely willing to help because backing out last minute can possibly cause complications to a recipient’s chances of getting better and receiving proper medical help.

Even though the drive at MacDill is over, registrations are still being processed at MacDill through July 6, 2021.

For more information regarding the bone marrow registry, donation process and registration drives, visit or if you have any questions call 1-800-627-7693.