Drive shows how diseases affect students, families and beyond

The Be The Match Marrow Donor Registry Drive started outside at the JSAC Patio on March 23 and lasted from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Photo: Jamie Sapp)
The Be The Match Marrow Donor Registry Drive started outside at the JSAC Patio on March 23 and lasted from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Photo: Jamie Sapp)

Jamie Sapp | Staff Writer

The sun shines bright as people gather together for a bone marrow drive at the JSAC Patio of Augusta University’s Summerville campus on March 23.

As an effort to reach out, the Be The Match Marrow Donor Registry Drive was held with guests to speak with students and other individuals from ages 18 to 44 about being a cure for people diagnosed with certain diseases.

Be The Match, which is operated by the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP), is a non-profit organization that consists of donors, volunteers, researchers and professionals in healthcare to deliver cures to patients diagnosed with leukemia, sickle cell anemia and other related diseases.

According to bethematch.org, Be The Match has been helping patients to find donors and treatments for over 25 years.

Community Engagement Representative Rod Gunn for Be The Match helped individuals to register for the Be The Match Marrow Donor Registry Drive. Gunn said that the drive is organized to help patients with blood cancers, such as leukemia and lymphoma, and blood disorders, such as sickle cell anemia.

“On many occasions, when traditional forms of treatment fail to work with these patients, they may need a bone marrow or blood stem cell transplant to cure them of their disease,” he said. “Their biggest challenge is 70 percent of these patients will not match a family member. As a result, they turn to Be The Match with hope of finding a stranger who shares their DNA tissue type so that they can receive a potential bone marrow transplant to cure their disease.”

Gunn said probably more than 50 people attended the Be The Match Marrow Donor Registry Drive.

“Everything is going great so far,” he said. “It’s exceeding expectations.”

With the Be The Match Marrow Donor Registry Drive, it gives people an opportunity to help patients find treatments for their diseases. Blood cancers, blood disorders and other related diseases not only affect patients, donors and doctors, but they also affect students, individuals, families and communities.

Aplastic anemia is a rare, yet treatable disorder that stops an individual’s bone marrow from making new blood cells. According to webmd.com, the disease can develop slowly or come on suddenly and it is typically diagnosed in people during their late teens or early 20s. Aplastic anemia can also become life threatening if an individual’s blood count is extremely low, according to webmd.com.

Freshman pre-nursing biology major Brittney Allen came to the drive with her family to share her story on dealing with her brother Justin’s aplastic anemia. On October 29, 2015, her brother Justin Allen died after receiving his bone marrow transplant on September 24, 2015.

Allen shared her experience on how challenging it was for her and her family to deal with her brother’s disease and his death.

“Coming to school and having to deal with him being in the hospital receiving this transplant and managing my first semester in college at the same time was very difficult,” Allen said. “And then he passed away in last October. So having to come back to school and deal with that, with him passing, was even more difficult.”

Allen said she joined the Student Wellness Council as an opportunity to let her brother’s legacy live as well as to bring awareness of bone marrow donation and aplastic anemia.

“I am actually getting ready to start my own organization here on campus as a way for me to be able to do this, along with blood drives on a more regular basis,” she said. “It will take me probably about two weeks to get approved after I get all of the paperwork done. So I am hoping that by next semester we’ll have everything ready to go, hopefully by the end of this semester…”

At the drive, Allen said the event had an amazing turnout, which was surprising to her. She also said it is making her think highly of Augusta University students.

“I kind of got a mixture of both negative responses and really good responses,” she said. “A lot of people were really concerned about the pain that people might be in, but then a lot of people showed out. We had a constant flow, since we started at 11 o’clock. Actually, people started coming before we started.”

Allen said she plans to get her organization started in order to bring awareness of superior diseases such as aplastic anemia. She also said she plans to host one bone marrow drive a year, along with one or more blood drives a year.

“People receiving these transplants have to have frequent blood transfusions as well,” she said. “So, blood donation is also an important part of bone marrow donation as well.”

In a separate, recent interview, Brittney Allen said the organization will become a Be The Match On Campus Chapter. She is currently looking for an adviser who is willing to be a part of the organization before moving forward with the chapter in the spring semester of 2017.

Allen also said that students can get involved by joining the chapter at Augusta University, helping raise money and planning more bone marrow registry drives and other events to help cure blood cancers and disorders as well as to provide the transplants people need.

For more information on Be The Match, go to bethematch.org. For more details on registration and volunteer opportunities, contact Rod Gunn at rgunn@nmdp.org or go to join.bethematch.org/GA.

Contact Jamie Sapp at: jsapp270@augusta.edu

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2 thoughts on “Drive shows how diseases affect students, families and beyond

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