Student group Multi successfully registered 100 members of the Swarthmore community in their Bone Marrow Registration Drive on Friday the 25th. Sitting at both the Science Center and Sharples, volunteers collected cheek swabs that will be part of the national donor registry.
Bone marrow donation has been especially important to the Multi group, which is Swarthmore’s interest group based on mixed-race heritages. Bone marrow matches are far more specific than those of blood type. 70% of people do not find a suitable match within their family, a figure that holds even greater for those of mixed-race background. Only 7% of the people in the national registry are of mixed-race, according to Casey Lu Simon-Plumb ‘18, the campaign organizer.
“Bone marrow matches is based on genetic DNA markers, and so you increase your finding of a match if you have shared ancestry,” organizer Simon-Plumb said.
For Multi, it was important to explain that this is not a donation event, but a registration one. According to Simon-Plumb, only one in 540 people in the registry ever end up donating. Additionally, the pain involved in an actual bone marrow donation isn’t severe, as the surgery itself would have the donor under general anesthesia.
Multi is working with Gift of Life, which is an associate donor registry of the National Marrow Donor Foundation. Gift of Life provided registration kits, supplies, and training for volunteers. While the event at Swarthmore focuses on registration, the Gift of Life nonetheless requires $60 to process each kit. There were two training sessions held over Skype.
“You are handling people’s saliva and their fluids. You need a medical consent form, you need to handle it properly so you don’t end up touching the saliva or whatnot, and just making sure you’re labeling things properly,” volunteer Bill Fedullo ‘16 said.
Multi has enlisted the help of Maurice Eldridge, who has been leading blood drive efforts. Eldridge has sent numerous emails to the Swarthmore community on behalf of Multi to highlight the bone marrow registration drive.
“He’s been a very supportive throughout this in helping us promote the event and get out a lot of information,” Simon-Plumb said.
The optimal age for marrow donation is from 15 to 45. Hence, the drive is seeking not only student registration, but staff and faculty as well. In spite of the preferred age range, The Gift of Life still accepts registration to age 61. Certain medical conditions such as diabetes and Chron’s disease disqualify people from donating.
Multi was sure to make clear that this drive was simply a registration and did not involve a complex process. The registration process took only a few minutes. Alex Jin ‘19, a student who registered, emphasized the ease of signing up.
“It just required swabbing my mouth for a quick ten seconds in four spots, you didn’t have to do anything special. You just need to go online to fill a form and that’s it,” Jin said.
Students who registered noted the importance of making people’s lives better.
“I am a regular blood donor. This is a pretty simple way for you to contribute to making people’s wellness better and making their lives better,” Fedullo said.
After successfully reaching it’s goal of 100 people registered, Multi aims to have the bone marrow registration drive be an annual event and aim for even greater participation.
“The Gift of Life at first wanted to give us 50 kits. I was like ‘we’re a campus of 1600, we can give more than that’,” Simon-Plumb said.