Bone marrow drive focuses on quality over quantity in registered donors


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Finding a bone-marrow match is nothing like finding a match for a blood donation. Six out of the 10 discovered antigens have to be identical between two people for a marrow transplant to even be possible.

When University of Iowa junior and athlete Joey Drum went to watch a much anticipated magic show last year, he had no idea all his antigens would line up and his subsequent bone-marrow donation would potentially save someone’s life.

Drum was one of the four people from last year’s UI Project Marrow drive whose cell samples matched someone in need, and went ahead with the transplant.

“Looking back at it, I am so glad that I decided to register,” Drum said in an email. “I would do it again if I get the chance. The whole experience was relatively easy and took no time at all. People are in need of a donor every single day, and a lot of people don’t ever find one. That is why we need to boost the awareness and get people registered.”

Bone marrow is the tissue found in the interior of bones and is responsible for red blood cell production in the human body.

Following his donation, Drum said he has become very involved with Project Marrow and encourages people to register and donate.

UI Project Marrow is a student organization that collaborates with the Marrow Donor Program at the UI Hospitals and Clinics to hold a weeklong registration drive on campus. Last year, 838 people registered into the Be the Match registry – a global network of willing bone marrow donors – during the weeklong drive on campus, which concluded with a popular, crowd drawing magic show.

The organization has increased its presence this year with volunteers collecting samples in Burge and Hillcrest.

UI senior Livia Lisboa, the president of UI Project Marrow, said while she doesn’t expect the same high number of registrations this year, the group stresses the quality of registration.

“One of the things with marrow donations, because the chances of finding a match are so low, is while we want to recruit more people, we are more concerned about the quality of people than the numbers,” she said. “So if we get fewer people than last year but if those people are very committed donors and when called, they actually go ahead and donate and not back out, that is what we want.”

Zach Daul, one of the M.B.A. students who volunteers to register possible donors, said the biggest question students have about the transplant is whether the process hurts.

“That is one of the biggest misconceptions,” he said. “Seventy-five percent of the donations are like normal blood donations and then 25 percent require a pelvis extraction, which is done under general anesthesia and is a regular out-patient procedure. You end up feeling like you fell on your back for one day. It is not necessarily as painful as people make it out to be.”

Chelsea Cooling, another volunteer, said many students want to know exactly what they are committing to and it is the volunteer’s goal to make that crystal clear.

“It is a commitment,” she said. “They are not just registering for something and will never be contacted again. They may never be contacted, but if they are, there is an expectation there. You are always allowed to say no, but we encourage you to not say no.”

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