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Davis, California

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Donate marrow and save a life

It’s hard to miss the huge blood drives and the blood donation t-shirts. But if you’re looking for a unique way to donate, sign up with the national marrow donor registry from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today and Thursday on the quad.

The drive helps potential donors register with the national Be The Match Registry, which finds donors for patients searching for a tissue match. According to the event sponsor, Asian American Donor Program (AADP), 10,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with blood diseases that require a marrow transplant.

Rudy Law, the recruitment director at AADP, said the registration process takes only 10 minutes and is straightforward and easy. Potential donors have to fill out paperwork and give a cheek swab sample. This sample is later tested and potentially matched with cancer patients.

To determine if a sample is a match, doctors and technicians take the donor’s blood and check the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) type, a marker protein on cells in the body. Patients need a close match or their immune system will attack the donor cells, rejecting the marrow transplant. Most donors, however, will not be a close match to patients’ needs.

Donors are typically matched by race and ethnicity. However, because 73 percent of the 7 million donors in the U.S. match registry are Caucasian, the AADP emphasizes the importance of minorities signing up for the registry, Law said.

Cao Pham, a junior psychology and communication double major, signed up for the registry in spring of 2009 and was notified that he was a potential match only months after signing up. After answering questions about his medical history and taking blood tests, he was ready to donate.

“For me it was painless – physically and mentally,” Pham said.

Pham took a drug to increase the stem cell count in his bones and blood before the peripheral blood stem cell procedure (PBSC). Similar to donating blood, this procedure withdraws blood from a donor’s arms, runs the blood through a machine to separate the necessary cells for the transplant, then returns the blood to the donor’s arm.

“There’s nothing to lose but a lot to give by donating,” he said.

Pham must wait until December to find out whom exactly he donated to, but he knows that the 34-year-old man he donated to with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is feeling better and is out of the hospital. Pham hopes to meet the man in the future.

The AADP estimates that 75 percent of donors donate through the PBSC procedure. The rest donate with a surgical procedure in which liquid marrow is withdrawn from the pelvic bone under anesthesia.

“It’s really simple and not that invasive,” said Annie Doan, the senior outreach coordinator of AADP and a UC Davis alumna.

Donors regain the marrow in four to six weeks and experience soreness in the hip region for several days.

“Blood cancers can happen to anyone,” Doan said. “It’s always better to be proactive rather than reactive because [patients] can be cured if there’s a transplant available.”

Each year the AADP signs up nearly 15,000 potential donors. The organization comes to UC Davis twice a year and generally signs up 100 to 200 donors in two days.

This year, Alpha Kappa Delta Phi and Lambda Phi Epsilon are helping AADP organize and publicize the event. Amy Wei, the vice president of service for Alpha Kappa Delta Phi and a junior Chinese and psychology double major will be helping potential donors sign up.

“It’s a very easy process – it only takes 10 minutes to register and it’s for a good cause,” she said.

KELLY KRAG-ARNOLD can be reached at features@theaggie.org.


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