Be The Match!

Be-the-Match-R_CMYK

Next Wednesday from 10-3 in the MEC lobby NCU is having the Be The Match bone marrow drive. To someone who is personally not very fond of needles, I must say at first I thought the event sounded like something I would never want to go to. But I decided to find out more about the event before I brushed it off entirely. I interviewed Danielle Schmidt, who is a student here at NCU and is hosting the drive. Danielle is a junior who is currently studying education and is on the basketball team. Let’s see what she had to say about the event and my fears.

What is this event and what is the process like? 

If you are going to come, you are going to see a whole bunch of tables and people will fill out a little bit of paperwork and get their cheeks swabbed with a Q-tip. Then that gets sent off to the national bone marrow registry. There, people who have all types of blood cancers and leukemia and need a bone marrow transplant can look for a match.

So basically I show up, they swab my cheek, and that’s all I have to do? 

Yep, you just fill out a little bit of paperwork and that’s it. There are guidelines for people that can enter, I think it is for people ages 18-44 who are in good health.

So there will be no needles at the event. 

No needles, only Q-tips.

Why are you doing this, what is your involvement? 

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This hits very close to home because when I was in high school I was diagnosed with Aplastic anemia, which is a very rare blood and bone marrow disease-type cancer. I see the same doctors as someone who has leukemia, that’s the most well-known thing I can relate it to. They wanted to do a bone marrow transplant with me, and the first person they go to for a match is your siblings. Your siblings have the best chances of success with a bone marrow transplant. My sister wasn’t a match, so I had to check with the national bone marrow registry, and in the whole world they found two people who were a match for me. A lot of it is based on race and ethnicity, and I am German and Native American, so a match should not be that rare.  The fact that I only had 2 matches was insane, and it just made me think of people with different ethnicities how they have a much smaller chance of finding a match. I just want to get people registered since there are so many kids out there who don’t have matches, and it’s as simple as a cheek swab. At lot of people just don’t know how easy it is.

So you basically want to raise awareness about this issue and get people involved?

Yes. And so many people are afraid they are going to be faced with some big huge needles at the drive when it’s just a Q-tip.

So if you are a match, and they do need to take marrow, it’s basically like giving blood?

Yes. Since they give you a shot to raise your blood cells, you may get some headaches and have some soreness for a few days, but that’s it. It’s not as scary as people think, it has changed a lot.

After all that information, what would you say to someone who is still scared to do it?

The first thing I would say is “do you know anyone who has ever had cancer?” and “do you have any siblings?” because those kids out there who need matches, they are someone’s daughter and someone’s son. They are someone’s loved one, and their life can be saved by you entering the registry. Wouldn’t you want that for your little brother or sister? Someone to be unselfish enough to join in and possible save someone’s life?

What’s one thing you hope the NCU community specifically can take away from this event? 

I want everyone to be able to share their experience and to share the awareness of what a bone marrow drive is. I want people to walk away feeling good about themselves, knowing they have put themselves on the line to help someone else. I just want people to know about it, enter the registry, and know they are a possible way to save someone’s life.

Have you thought about doing events for the whole Eugene community here, or do you just want to focus on this one at NCU?

Last year I did the Be The Match walk/run in Portland and I think it would be really cool to get one started here. I’m not sure if that is even possible because I don’t know how hard it is to get all of that going. Right now the NCU community is my focus, but I am definitely not against getting other kids and schools involved with this.

So I heard you have an affiliate from Be The Match in Portland coming down to assist you, what will she be doing?

She helps coordinate all the drives for anyone who contacts her and needs help in setting up a drive. She is the one who will bring all the paperwork and forms. She will come down and help with the process, then take the cheek swabs back to Portland.

You also gave me this link for people to donate money to the drive, what is that all about? 

Not all people are willing to join the registry. There are people who physically can’t, they do not fit the health guidelines, and so this is a way for them to be involved. What most people don’t know is that it cost about $100 for every person that enters the match to run their DNA. People who join the registry are not expected to cover that, so Be The Match relies heavily on donations to cover those costs.

Well thank you Danielle for your time! 

Thanks and hope to see you there!

Well there you have it. No needles and a chance to save someone’s life. The event is Wednesday February 5th from 10-3 in the MEC lobby. If you want to know more about the program, you can check out Be The Match’s website. I know that Danielle is passionate about this project, and I could hear just how much it meant to her during the interview. She definitely changed my mind about the event, and you will see me there next Wednesday. Hope to see you all as well!

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