It’s all about saving lives.
That’s the purpose behind the Be the Match bone marrow donor drive scheduled Thursday, Feb. 6, at Gross Memorial Coliseum at the Fort Hays State University basketball games.
Registered nurse Amanda McCord with the FHSU Student Health Center said the drive would be simple, easy, and — most importantly — painless.
The doors open that evening at 5. The women play Kansas Newman at 5:30 p.m. The men’s game against Newman is scheduled to start around 7:30 p.m. The Ellis County Cancer Council is sponsoring the games. The Health Center is coordinating the donor drive.
McCord said often a bone marrow transplant is the one remaining hope for patients who have blood cancers and who do not respond to chemotherapy or other treatments.
Be the Match is an international registry that matches patients needing a transplant with a potential donor. According to a news release, the registry has facilitated more than 92,000 transplants since 1987.
McCord said signing up a fan should take only about 5-10 minutes — unless lines at the donor tables get extremely long. Nobody is going to be drawing anyone’s blood, she emphasized.
Volunteers will obtain the potential donor’s contact information and a brief medical history. All of this will be input digitally, McCord said, so it will be helpful if potential donors can bring their smartphones with them, although laptops will also be available at the sign-up tables.
Then each potential donor will do his or her own cheek swab. This swab will be put in an envelope, sealed and then sent to Be the Match, along with the potential donor’s information.
If there is ever a match, the potential donor will be contacted. If the person is still interested in donating their bone marrow, Be the Match will pay all the donor’s travel expenses, McCord said. According to the news release, about 1 in 40 U.S. registry members will go on to actually donate to a patient.
“Seventy percent of patients do not have a fully matched donor in their family. They depend on Be the Match to find an unrelated donor,” the release said. While potential donors are under no legal obligation to honor their initial commitment, “a late decision not to donate can be life-threatening to a patient.”
McCord is also seeking volunteers to help run the event. “Basically, volunteers will be helping people with the paperwork,” she said.
While she is willing to work with walk-in volunteers the night of the event, she said she would prefer that volunteers contact her ahead of time at firstname.lastname@example.org. There is a short online tutorial that volunteers can watch that will be helpful, she said. An RN also will be on hand at the event.
“People between the ages of 18 and 24 are most urgently needed since they are requested by transplant doctors more than 86 percent of the time,” the news release stated, “and research shows that these donors provide the greatest chance for transplant success.”
That’s why McCord is hoping student attendance at the games and at the sign-up tables will be high.