Wednesday, November 21, 2012

On Wednesday, Nov. 28, Fairmont State University and Pierpont Community & Technical College will host a drive to register bone marrow donors. Sponsored by the Rugby Team, the drive will urge students, faculty and staff to “give a spit about cancer” by signing up for the Be the Match Foundation bone marrow registry via a simple cheek swab. 

From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., the donor registration table will be operational on Main Street, located on the second floor of the Falcon Center. Donors, especially those who are 18 to 24 years of age, are in high demand because matching a leukemia or blood cancer patient with a donor can take several years. Donors can remain on the registry at length. African American donors also are critically needed. 

It is estimated that in the United States alone, an individual dies from blood cancer every 10 minutes (approximately 144 people per day). Research indicates that blood cancer takes more lives of individuals ages 1 to 19 than any other cancers combined. According to bone marrow drive contact April Pierson, faculty, staff and students in particular at Fairmont State and Pierpont have the power to impact those statistics.

Pierson is a current Fairmont State student and has personal experience with bone marrow donation.  After her father was diagnosed with stage IV blood cancer in August of 2010 at 51 years of age, Pierson connected with the Be the Match Foundation in an effort to locate the life-saving bone marrow match her father required in order to survive. Unfortunately, a match for her father was not found in time. 

“Unfortunately, my dad will not be the only person to lose this battle. Seventy percent of patients who need a bone marrow transplant will not have a matching donor within their family. My dad didn’t. That means that the lifesaving matches that patients so desperately rely on will come from complete strangers like you and me,” Pierson said.     

According to Pierson, registering as a donor is simple and painless. In order to be added to the registry, a donor will complete a standard medical questionnaire and will swab his or her cheek with four provided Q-tips. Both the questionnaire and the Q-tips will then be submitted via a self-addressed stamped envelope to a lab. There, donor samples are run against lists of patients, each of whom is awaiting a match. Those samples that do not return an immediate match are kept on the registry for possible matches into the future.

“Unfortunately, many potential donors believe the myths. One common myth is that all donations require surgery. In actuality, the majority of donations merely require two simple sticks, similar to giving blood. In cases where it is necessary to extract bone marrow, the donor undergoes an out-patient procedure, the side effects from which are most similar to the common flu. Wouldn’t you agree that experiencing flu-like symptoms for a few days is a small sacrifice to make to save a life?” Pierson said.

“I can only hope that those of you not on the registry will join the Rugby Team and myself this year to give the most precious gift this holiday season-- the gift of life. Last year one student from our institutions matched a patient on the registry and potentially saved that individual’s life. This year, that patient could be you.  So, I urge my fellow classmates to come and join us. Together we can be the hero someone is waiting for! We can Be the Match that will save a life.”

For more information, contact April Pierson at acampbell7@students.fairmontstate.edu.