Rider’s bone marrow drive aims to save lives

By Rachel Stengel

A few moments of your time could help save a life at Rider’s Bone Marrow Registry Drive on Tuesday.

The event is being held in conjunction with the blood drive from 1 to 4 p.m. in the BLC Cavalla Room.

At the event, the Be The Match Foundation will be registering participants in the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) registry, not taking bone marrow at the event. The registration involves a simple cheek swab and some paperwork. The cheek swab will provide the participants’ tissue/marrow type. They will then be entered into the registry and await a potential match. Lauren Kohn of the Post Baccalaureate Pre-Medical group developed the motto for the drive, “Fifteen minutes of your time could mean a lifetime to someone else.”

NMDP and the Be The Match Foundation are nonprofit organizations striving to give patients the opportunity to receive bone marrow or umbilical cord blood transplants. Bone marrow donations aid patients suffering from leukemia and other life-threatening diseases. Seventy percent of individuals who require such transplants do not have matches in their family. The NMDP aids patients requiring a match.

The Be The Match Registry has grown to more than 9 million donors. Since 1987, NMPD has facilitated more than 43,000 transplants. Each year, 5,200 transplants are facilitated by NMPD, giving more people a second chance at life.
Dr. Bryan Spiegelberg, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry, Biochemistry and Physics, acted as the catalyst for the event. Five organizations are coordinating the event: the Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Medical Studies student group, the Women’s Field Hockey team, Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Lambda Theta Pi Latin Fraternity and the American Medical Student Association (AMSA).

While in graduate school, Spiegelberg participated in a bone marrow drive that forever impacted his life. After being placed into the registry, he was called a year later by the NMDP as a possible match for a leukemia patient. He underwent further testing, which allowed him to donate peripheral stem cells (cells similar to bone marrow). These cells were transplanted into a middle-aged man with end-stage leukemia. Spiegelberg’s donation extended the man’s life for another four years, during which the two became friendly. Unfortunately, the man passed away in 2005, but his wife and son continue to hold annual bone marrow drives in order to expand the registry.

“The dedication of my recipient’s family has inspired me to help out with the cause,” Spiegelberg said.  “Thousands of patients with leukemia and other diseases need bone marrow transplants, but the bone marrow (or stem cells) that they receive must be closely matched to their own (similar to blood typing, but far more extensive). Because of this need for close matches, many patients are unable to receive a potentially life-saving transplant. By adding people to the registry, we hope that we can increase the matching success rate.”

According to the NMDP, the chance of being selected as a donor is one in 12. If one should be called as a match, there is additional testing required before donation. Thaiphi Luu, a member of the AMSA explained how the donation process occurs. The participant will attend an information session about donation and undergo a physical examination to ensure the donation is safe. There are two methods of donation: peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC) and bone marrow.

The PBSC donation takes place at a blood center or outpatient hospital unit. The procedure requires the donor to take medication that promotes the development of blood-forming cells five days before the donation.

At the donation, blood is removed from one arm and sent through a machine, which separates out the blood-forming cells; the rest of the blood is returned through a needle in the other arm. The normal level of blood-forming cells will return in four to six weeks.

The bone marrow donation takes place at a hospital. It is a surgical procedure where liquid marrow is drawn from the pelvic bone. Anesthesia is administered; the donor feels no pain during the procedure. Both procedures allow the donor to return home the same day.

Luu encourages students to participate in the drive.

“We have to look at the facts,” he said. “Thousands of people throughout the U.S. need a bone marrow transplant. These afflicted people are suffering from debilitating diseases, such as leukemia, and we can possibly help save their lives by simply signing up on the marrow donor registry.”

Rider’s Bone Marrow Registry Drive will also be raising money to support NMDP and the Be The Match Foundation.

Typically, adding a donor to the registry costs $100, but the Be The Match Foundation will be adding Rider students free of charge. Rider’s fundraising will be used to offset the money the Be The Match Foundation is providing for free registration.

A car wash will be held Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon at the PEAC Health & Fitness located at 1440 Lower Ferry Road, Ewing, N.J. Donations can be made at the event or given to Speigelberg. Donations are accepted as cash or checks made out to The HLA Registry.

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