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Katharina Harf’s life changed forever when her mother, Mechtild, was diagnosed with acute leukemia in 1990. Her family was told that a bone marrow transplant could save her mother if she could find a matching donor. The search seemed hopeless, however, because at the time there were only 3,000 potential donors available in Germany, where they lived. Katharina’s father, Peter Harf, was desperate to find his wife a donor and with the help of family, friends and volunteers, worked tirelessly to recruit 68,000 donors in only one year.
Recognizing the importance of finding suitable donors for all patients in need, Peter Harf and his wife's physician, Professor Dr. Gerhard Ehninger, founded DKMS Deutsche Knochenmarkspenderdatei gGmbH (German Bone Marrow Donor Center in English) in Germany in 1991. Sadly, that same year, Mechtild lost her battle to leukemia. Katharina was only fourteen.
Katharina’s mother's death shaped her life in many significant ways. It motivates her to continue the lifesaving work that her father began in 1990. Katharina’s goal in life is to help other leukemia patients, so that no family has to endure the pain they suffered.
In 2004, Katharina led the expansion of DKMS into the U.S. Through this effort, DKMS has been able to establish a donor recruitment program and national campaigns throughout the U.S. to raise awareness and increase the diversity of the donor registry.
Worldwide, DKMS donors have provided marrow and peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC) for more than 26,000 transplants. DKMS now has over 2.8 million registered bone marrow donors. Please join us in the fight against leukemia.