Donor recruitment drive benefits those in need of marrow transplants
December 11, 2012
STUTTGART, Germany -- While holiday shoppers browsed the aisles of the Panzer Exchange Dec. 8 and 9, they discovered they could give a meaningful gift that wouldn't cost a dime.
Boy Scouts from Troop 154 asked shoppers to sign up to become marrow donors. Seventy-seven people agreed to register through a relatively quick and easy process.
Michael Ervin, a civilian employee assigned to U.S. European Command was happy to do so.
"This is something I've always wanted to do; I just didn't know how," he said, adding, "We were all put on this earth to help one another."
Potential donors were asked to give four oral swabs collected from their cheeks and complete a simple registration form. The results will be added to Defense Department and National Marrow Donor registries.
"If you match with someone, you'll get a call asking if you'd be willing to undergo more tests and possibly donate your bone marrow," said Erick Lopez-Santana, 14, who organized the drive to benefit the Department of Defense Marrow Donor program as part of his Eagle Scout project.
The C.W. Bill Young/DOD Marrow Donor Center will make arrangements for further testing and if a person is found to be an acceptable match, he or she will be asked to consider donating marrow or peripheral blood stem cells for the patient.
The actual donation will be performed at either Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C., the University of Maryland Greenbaum Medical Center in Baltimore, Md., or at Fairfax Pathology Associates in Fairfax, Va., according to the C.W. Bill Young/DOD Marrow Donor Center website.
Medical fees and any travel expenses are paid for by the receiving patient, said Lopez-Santana.
Approximately 30,000 people in the U.S., more than 500 of them associated with the Defense Department, are diagnosed each year with leukemia or other deadly blood diseases, said Lopez-Santana.
According to the DOD Marrow Donor Center website, a bone marrow transplant is frequently their only hope. "Because tissue types are inherited and some tissue types are unique to certain racial or ethnic groups, a patient's best chance is within his or her ethnic and racial group. Since 75 percent of the patients in need of a marrow transplant cannot find a match within their own family, a strong national database is essential for identifying potential donors."
On average, one in every 540 members of the National Marrow Donor registry in the U.S. will go on to donate bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells to a patient, according to the registry's website.
While Lopez-Santana expects the drive's final number to be over 100, he said achieving a specific number was never his objective.
"My main goal is to build awareness in the community of the Marrow Donor Program and hopefully have follow on donor recruitment drives," he said.
If you missed the recruitment drive, you still become part of the marrow registry.
Active duty service members and their dependents, Defense Department civilians, reservists, National Guard and members of the Coast Guard between 18 and 60 and in good general health can request test kits by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Those not affiliated with the Defense Department can contact the National Marrow Donor Program at http://marrow.org.