Sign up to save a life

Junior Tim Walker (right) hands out cheek swabs to students registering for the “Be The Match” marrow drive. Photo by Morgan McCririe.

By Heather Mead

On Thursday, Feb. 23, more than 300 people from the local area gathered in the Diamond Room to “be the match” in ONU’s marrow drive, sponsored by the campus biology club, Biophilic.

The number of participants this year doubled the last highest record.

The drive’s goal was to have as many people as possible participate in order to increase the chances that people who are in need can find a match.

“There are few limitations to who can’t register,” said senior James Smit, Biophilic president. “We are more looking to get [people] in the door, and then we decide if they would fit.”

Registration takes approximately 10 minutes to complete; most of that time is spent filling out a form and the rest is doing four cheek swabs.

To qualify, a person must be between 18 and 60 years old, meet the weight requirements and be free from AIDS, HIV or certain autoimmune diseases.

Those who choose to register need to be committed, so “if you’re called, you can say yes,” biology professor Mike Pyle said.

If a person changes his or her mind, they can contact Be The Match at marrow.org to be taken off or added to the list.

Senior Holly Pflederer is one of the students contacted as potential match.

“I got called out of millions of people,” she said. “You have a large health questionnaire, and then [Be The Match] gets in touch with your physician. Once you pass that phase, you get your blood drawn to see if you’re a perfect match.”

Once this phase is complete, Pflederer, as well as anyone who makes it to this stage, will find out whether she is a match for the patient. Then she can give her stem cells or bone marrow.

“Bone marrow donation is a surgical procedure in which liquid marrow is withdrawn from the back of the donor’s pelvic bones using special, hollow needles,” according to marrow.org.

Anesthesia is given, making the procedure painless. However, some pain may be felt for a few days afterward.

Those that decide to donate marrow may be required to go to a different city in order to do the procedure, but Be The Match will cover their traveling expenses.

“They also try to work around your schedule, and you get to save someone’s life,” Pyle said.

People are asked to join the Be The Match registry in order to help those that are struggling with life-threatening diseases including sickle cell anemia, lymphoma and leukemia.

The cells can be frozen and shipped anywhere around the world. The procedure can also be done a number of times because stem cells replace themselves.

“We did the marrow drive in 2009, 2010 and this year,” Pyle said. “We didn’t do it last year because they changed the representative.” In 2009, 115 people participated in the drive at Olivet and about 100 participated in 2010, he said.

The drive came to Olivet shortly after Pyle discovered Be The Match.  He thought it would be a great event for Olivet to partake in and encouraged the Biophilic club to get it going.

“It’s cool to get matched, [then] meet [the person who needs the marrow] and donate to them,” said Smit.  “It’s cool to really affect someone that much. I think you’d regret not doing it. It’s painless to register, and it’s really great to help out.”

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