Each year, 14,000 people are diagnosed with illnesses that can be treated or cured with a bone marrow transplant, according to the Be the Match official website. At the Be The Match bone marrow registry drive organized by the co-ed service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega (APO) in the Memorial Union Building (MUB) on Thursday, April 6, students sought to “be the match and help save a life.
“If donating causes a little bit of pain for me, but can save someone’s life, then it’s worth it,” sophomore Emily Dutton said.
According to Be The Match Community Engagement Representative Jennifer St. Peter, there are more than 13 million people on the national bone marrow registry run by Be The Match, due to the uniqueness of bone marrow, a suitable genetic match is very difficult to find.
APO was able to exceed its expected registration rate.
“Our goal was to get 50 students registered and so far we’ve had over 50 students register,” APO member Ryan Campbell said.
According to the Be the Match website, a person only has to complete a few forms and have a simple swab of their cheek cells taken in order to qualify as a donor. The cheek cells provide enough information for the registry to keep on file, and if there are similarities between a potential donor’s cells and a patient’s, the potential donor will be called back in for additional blood work.
“Only one in 30 people are asked to come back for a second round of testing, which is just blood work, and only one in 540 actually go on to donate bone marrow,” St. Peter said.
According to the Be the Match official website under FAQ’s, once a person joins the bone marrow registry, they stay on until the age of 61 unless otherwise specified. Students had many reasons for wanting to join the registry but one consistent theme was having the opportunity to do something good for someone who needs help.
“This is something simple that I can do that would have a huge impact on someone else,” freshman LuLu Mantovani said.
Only 60 percent of people that are called in for additional testing actually go forward to donate, according to St. Peter. After the second round of testing only one in 540 people actually go on to donate. In part this is due to the fact that finding an exact match is extremely difficult, especially for patients who are more genetically diverse. Having a diverse registry is critical because only 25 percent of patients have a match in their family.
According to the Be the Match website, a person must be healthy and between the ages of 18 and 44 to be eligible to join the bone marrow registry. The Be The Match website states that the age requirements are put in place to protect the patient and the potential donors from complications that have an increased risk over the age of 60. In addition, the website states that studies have shown that cells from younger donors have a higher rate of success than those from older donors.
According to St. Peter, a bone marrow transplant has the ability to treat or cure 72 different diseases.
“We thought this would be a good service event because it raises awareness about something that people don’t know as much about,” APO new member educator Sarah Bizzotto said.