Danny and Hannah Dunn, with their dog, Rally. PHOTO COURTESY OF HANNAH DUNN

Bar Harbor couple search for transplant match

BAR HARBOR — Local couple Danny and Hannah Dunn are searching for a life-saving donor for Danny, a Bar Harbor native, who for the last several years has been battling a rare form of cutaneous lymphoma.  

And while Danny has been soldiering on through radiation treatments and medications – so much so that it would be hard to tell he was sick unless one knew of his diagnosis – a recent biopsy showed an aggressive and large cell transformation with the potential to spread to his blood, organs and lymph nodes. 

His team of doctors at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston has put him on track for an allogeneic stem cell transplant slated for late spring or early summer – around the same time as the birth of the couple’s first child.  

“I sort of knew it was on my horizon eventually,” Danny told the Islander about the transplant. “That’s the only curative option there is.”  

But the inevitable has happened faster than the couple anticipated. 

“I was hoping not this soon,” the Mount Desert Island High School alum and Husson University graduate said.  

The husband-and-wife team hasn’t wasted any time searching for a donor match for Danny, who works full-time helping manage T.G. Dunn Plumbing & Heating, after learning that neither sibling testing nor the national database had revealed a match for the transplant procedure.  

The database is a registry through nonprofit Be The Match, which is operated by the National Marrow Donor Program.   

Be The Match provides patients access to more than 39 million donors around the world who stand ready to be a life-saving marrow or blood stem cell donor,” according to its website. “Because there are patients who can’t find a match, we need more people to join the registry and to be there when they are called as a match.” 

It is a service that many count on, as Be The Match reports that 70 percent of patients “do not have a fully matched donor in their family.” 

Danny and Hannah are holding an ongoing virtual donor drive to get folks signed up on the registry and hopefully to find Danny a match. 

To join the free registry, those who are eligible can text danafarber22 to 61474.  

Donors must be 18 to 40 years old, willing to donate to any patient and meet the health guidelines to be eligible.  

A link to a digital consent form will then be sent via text message. Once that is filled out and submitted electronically, a cheek swab kit will be mailed in 5 to 7 business days. Potential donors can then complete the cheek swab and place it in the prepaid and preaddressed envelope to send back in the mail. 

It is a quick process and community members are already reporting to the Dunns that they have received their kits.  

The type of procedure a donor would undergo if contacted is called a peripheral blood stem cell donation, which is a nonsurgical process similar to donating plasma.  

According to the Be The Match guidelines, someone who has signed up to be on the registry can decline to participate in a donation if contacted as a match.  

The Dunns are also holding two in-person donor drives at the Ellsworth Elks Lodge at 317 High St., one on March 8 from noon to 6 p.m. and one on March 12 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

While they try to find a donor for Danny, the Dunns are also committed to expanding the national database so that others in need of critical transplants may be paired with a matching donor. 

“Regardless, our efforts are also to help the registry in general,” Hannah said.  

Their undertaking is already producing results. 

“We got a message today from our donor coordinator saying they have had a large number of virtual sign ups and whatever we are doing is working,” Danny shared in a Facebook post. “Although these donor drives are directed towards me, there are thousands of people like me waiting to find a match. Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, children and good friends who are all desperate to spend more time with their loved ones. You all are giving people hope and will help people with these swabs!” 

For more information, message the swab4danny Facebook page or email [email protected] 

Those who are over the age of 40 (and thus ineligible to join the registry) or want to specifically be tested for Danny (and not join the registry), can order a test kit at www.bonemarrowtest.com, but a review of the health guidelines for the testing should be done first at www.bethematch.org 

Those who sign up will be asked to include a contact person and may use Cristina Balboni, (617) 632-2269, email address [email protected], Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, 450 Brookline Ave., Boston, MA, 02215. 

Rebecca Alley

Rebecca Alley

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
Rebecca is the Schoodic-area reporter and covers the towns of Eastbrook, Franklin, Hancock, Lamoine, Sorrento, Sullivan, Waltham, Winter Harbor and Trenton. She lives in Ellsworth with her husband and baby boy who was joyously welcomed in June 2020. Feel free to send tips and story ideas to [email protected]

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