Ten thousand people with leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell and other life-threatening diseases need a bone marrow transplant to survive. Seventy percent of these waiting patients do not have a donor in their family and depend on the Be The Match Registry to find an unrelated bone marrow donor or umbilical cord blood.
Donors with diverse racial or ethnic backgrounds are especially needed, which is one reason why the student group WU Marrow Registry is conducting an on-campus registry drive at four locations on the Danforth Campus Wednesday, Feb. 29. Adding more diverse members increases the likelihood that all patients will find a life-saving match.
This year, the small group has partnered with the Community Service Office to broaden visibility.
Stephanie Kurtzman, director of the Community Service Office and associate director of the Gephardt Institute for Public Service, says the impetus for expanding the effort grew out of an earlier conversation with the late James McLeod, vice chancellor for students and dean of the College of Arts & Sciences.
“He reasoned that we have a diverse population here at Washington University and that we have strong ties to the medical school,” Kurtzman says. “He asked, ‘Shouldn’t we be doing more?’”
The group is hoping to enroll faculty, staff and students in the national Be The Match Registry. The event also is open to the general public.
Registrants must be 18-60, in general good health, and be willing to donate to any patient in need. Health requirements for marrow donation are different than those for blood donation, so not being able to donate blood does not automatically mean a person cannot join the registry.
Joining is easy — all it takes is 20 minutes. Appointments are not necessary. Enrollees are asked to fill out a brief medical history. In the past, registering required blood sampling by finger stick, but now cells are collected via a non-invasive cheek swab. Prospective donors swab inside their own mouths.
Drives will be held from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at:
- Room 276, Danforth University Center;
- Room 312, Anheuser-Busch Hall; and
- Lopata Hall Gallery.
In addition, a drive will take place from 5-7 p.m. at Ursa’s Fireside on the South 40.
About ‘Be The Match’ registry
Doctors search the registry to find donors who match their patients’ tissue types. Even with a registry of millions, many patients cannot find a match.
Those who join the registry are enrolled for life until age 61 (younger cells are considered optimal for transplant).
Prospective donors may never be called, may be called years in the future or may be called right away if considered a match. On average, one in every 540 members of Be The Match in the United States will go on to donate marrow to a patient.
The donation process
First, patients undergo chemotherapy and sometimes radiation to destroy their diseased marrow. Then a donor’s healthy blood-forming cells are given directly into the patient’s bloodstream, where they can begin to function and multiply.
Donors may be asked to donate in one of two ways:
Peripheral blood cell donation involves removing a donor’s blood through a sterile needle in one arm. The blood is passed through a machine that separates out the cells used in transplants. The remaining blood is returned through the other arm. Eighty percent of donations are conducted this way, similar to a blood or platelet donation.
Bone marrow donation is a surgical procedure in which liquid marrow is withdrawn from the back of the donor’s pelvic bones using special, hollow needles. General or regional anesthesia is always used for this procedure, so donors feel no needle injections and no pain during marrow donation. Most donors feel some pain in their lower back for a few days afterward.
The registry covers all costs.
The drive also is sponsored by Be The Match, Alpha Phi Omega, EnCouncil, Law School Public Service Advisory Board and Relay For Life.
For more information, email email@example.com or bethematch.org.