Temple Student Government and the American Red Cross are working together to get minority students to donate bone marrow for people suffering from cancer and other blood disorders.
Minority students are being asked to register with the National Marrow Donor Program. The NMDP is a non-profit organization that helps match unrelated donors to patients who need marrow transplants. The NMDP works with other organizations, like the American Red Cross, in order to recruit and educate people about bone marrow donations.
Bone marrow is the tissue that produces red and white blood cells. These cells are attacked by diseases such as cancer, creating the need for a donor program.
According to the NMDP, 70 percent of those affected are unable to a find a match within their own families.
“You can be on the registry and never match. Then you can match instantaneously with someone,” said Yvette Torres, a recruiter from the American Red Cross. “We typically recruit college students because they make the best donors.”
It is easier to find matches within the same racial and ethnic group. Torres said minorities such as Asians, African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans don’t know how critical it is to donate marrow. She said the demand for minority donors is high and many don’t understand the need until it affects them.
“People are dying because we can’t find a match,” Torres said.
The first thing potential donors do is fill out a questionnaire and provide a small blood sample to be tested. The blood type is determined and added to the registry.
Torres said that if a match occurs, the donor will be contacted and will undergo further testing to find out if his or her blood exactly matches the patient’s. Donors will be informed about the procedures at an information session.
“Most donors feel the discomfort is minor in light of the fact you saved someone’s life,” Torres said.
There are two ways a donor can donate his or her marrow. A marrow transplant can be performed where the donor’s marrow is removed from he pelvic bone through a surgical procedure.
The other process is called peripheral blood stem cell procedure. The donor is injected with Filgrastim for four of five consecutive days. The Filgrastim promotes cell growth. The stem cells are removed with a needle from the donor’s arm.
The marrow donated to patients reproduces healthy blood cells in the patient.
“Your blood type becomes their blood type,” Torres said.
Donors on the registry must remember update their contact information, such as a change of address.
“It’s a real life long commitment,” she said.
Joanne Renois, Temple Student Government Chair of Community Service, did not realize the seriousness of the issue until Torres’ visit.
“I learned a lot about bone marrow and the fact that the need is out there,” she said.
Renois hopes that everyone can help out with the drive either by registering to become a donor, learning more about bone marrow donation, or educating others.
“I hope that someone at Temple University can save somebody’s life,” she said.
The Marrow Drive will be on Thursday, March 7 from noon to 5 p.m. at the Johnson and Hardwick Social Lounge. Renois would also like volunteers to help out with the drive.