Everyday Hero: Jenni Wachter

JACKSON, MO (KFVS) - What if something inside you could save the life of someone else? Would you be willing to give?

This month's Everyday Hero, Jenni Wachter of Jackson, is helping to connect life-saving donors with the people who desperately need their help - one cheek swab at a time.

Wachter's six-year-old son, Wade, acts like most six-year-old boys.

"He runs, he plays, he loves to climb on the monkey bars, he enjoys wrestling in the living room," said Wachter. "You wouldn't think he had a rare genetic disorder, but he does."

Wade was diagnosed with Schwachman-Diamond Syndrome before his first birthday. It is a bone marrow disorder that could have devastating effects on his life.

"Wade's bone marrow if funky," said Wachter. "It's not a typical normal bone marrow. there are certain cells that don't produce enough cells, there are certain cells that have a tendency to turn cancerous. So certain cells are out of whack, and because they're out of whack it has the potential of growing into acute myeloid leukemia."

Wachter said about half of all Schwachman-Diamond patients will require a bone marrow transplant at some point in their lives, but bone marrow donors are not as easy to come by as blood donors.

"You either have to have a sibling match, or you have to rely on someone else 's DNA, and they have to be willing to give you their bone marrow."

Knowing that her child might at some point need a match, Wachter and her husband joined the Bone Marrow Registry.

"To be someone else's life saving match," said Wachter. "In doing so we just learned so much about other people's stories about how they found a match, or they didn't find a match. We just started this passion of raising awareness on the bone marrow registry."

For many patients on the bone marrow registry, their only hope is to find that rare, perfect match.

"It's actually based on HLA type. It's not a blood type," said Wachter. "HLA is a unique 10-character DNA strand, and at the end of each strand they have certain identifiers. So someone else out there could have the exact same identifiers, but you're not related to them. So it's pretty unique - there are identifiers at the end of your DNA strand that someone else could have too. They could be your match."

Wachter has organized more than 10 bone marrow registry drives, swabbing cheeks to collect genetic material to help match donors with patients.

"I'd say between me and my husband's efforts to raise awareness for the bone marrow registry, whether it's people swabbing online or at a local drive, we've helped encourage more than 1000 people to join the registry," Wachter said.

Their efforts paid off. Wade's DNA hit on three potentially perfect matches on the registry.

Others aren't as lucky. So, Wachter said she plans to continue holding drives, reaching out through Facebook, and telling others about the life-saving potential they carry inside them.
"Every family deserves a match," said Wachter. "If I'm already doing a good job of finding matches and helping people join the registry – I'm not giving up just because Wade found a match."

Wachter said her husband Adam is a hero too. Back in 2012, Adam Wachter was a match for someone on the Bone Marrow Registry, and donated his stem cells to save another man's life.

If you know someone worthy of being an Everyday Hero, just click here to make your nomination.

We'll profile an Everyday Hero each month on Heartland News and all of our heroes will be honored at the annual Red Cross recognition luncheon.

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