SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. –The President’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Diversity at Slippery Rock University will host a “Be The Match Bone Marrow Drive” from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Feb. 26, to register individuals willing to donate their bone marrow to help others.
“The commission is hosting the free drive in the Smith Student Center Ballroom to specifically draw students that have a diverse ethnic background, because bi-racial and multi-racial individuals only make up a very small percentage of those on the registry, making it very difficult to find a match when needed,” said Lorraine Stubbs, an instructor in SRU’s academic services and commission member.
“Those with different ethnic heritages only make up about 29 percent of the registry, while the remainder of those on the list are Caucasian,” she said.
Blood marrow is often used to treat people with life threatening blood cancers, including leukemia, sickle cell anemia and lymphoma, among other diseases.
The campus drive is open to all students, faculty and staff, ages 18-44, she said. Those ages 45-60 who meet health guidelines and are willing to donate to any patient in need can join online at www.bethematch.org. However, they must handle their own cheek swab and pay a $100 tax-deductible payment to cover the cost of testing.
Research shows that cells from younger donors lead to more successful transplants. Doctors request donors in the 18-44 age group 90 percent of the time. To most responsibly provide stewardship of the registry and funds, Be The Match organizers said they must focus on adding registry members most likely to be called to donate to a patient.
The national Be The Match Foundation, headquartered in Minneapolis, Minn., runs the program. The National Marrow Donor Program sponsors the Be The Match Registry, which currently involves more than 10 million volunteers.
“Becoming a potential donor is really a simple process,” Stubbs said. “Those considering joining the registry will hear a short presentation, then be asked to complete some paperwork and then have the inside of their cheeks swabbed for a tissue analysis. The swab will be placed in a test tube for follow-up analysis and the data provided will be added to the registry.”
The analysis results take about 60 days.
“If the person’s swab is ever a match, they will be contacted by Be The Match and given the opportunity to then donate their marrow. Often that involves a process similar to donating blood from which the marrow can then be extracted. That, of course, would be a very simple procedure. Sometimes there is need for extracting the bone marrow itself and that is more invasive. All of the details would be explained by Be The Match if and when a match was made and the potential donor will have a choice about whether or not to participate.”
“If a potential donor agrees to the necessary procedures, they will incur no costs. All of the procedures are covered by Be The Match,” Stubbs said.
Stubbs said in reality most donors are between the ages of 18 and 44, which was among the reasons for conducting a drive on campus “because we have an abundance of younger people.”
“They say that finding a match is like finding a needle in a haystack, but most matches are found among their own race and ethnicity of the patient, which is why donors of diverse backgrounds are needed on the registry,” Stubbs said.
The registry was founded after Navy Admiral E. R. Zumwalt Jr., who served as chief of naval operations, found his eldest son needed a bone marrow transplant to treat lymphoma. Admiral Zumwalt recognized the significant financial needs of patients being served by the NMDP. After his son died, the admiral and his wife created The Marrow Foundation, now known as the “ Be The Match Foundation.”
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