By John Connolly
On Tuesday, January 26th, the National Catholic School of Social Service will hold a bone marrow registry drive in the Great Room of the Edward J. Pryzbyla Center.
Student Government Association (SGA) senators Roisin Gibbons and Jessie Burdette, who both represent the School of Social Services, campaigned in the student senate for the drive, which will be held through Be The Match, a part of the National Marrow Donor Program.
The drive will allow for members of the Catholic University of America community to enroll in the national bone marrow registry system as future potential matches for patients in need of a bone marrow transplant.
According to Gibbons, most of the 15 to 20 minutes needed to take part in the drive will involve filling out paperwork. DNA is then collected by taking four cheek swabs from each individual’s mouth. The test will then be sent off for laboratory analysis before being enrolled into the registry. Once enrolled, it is possible for participants to remove themselves from the system at anytime.
When a patient is in need of bone marrow, the registry is searched for a potential match. If a match is found, the individual matched with the patient is contacted. Gibbons said the possibility of being a match is about 1 in 500.
If the individual matched chooses to donate, they would travel to the patient in need to give bone marrow, which involves a surgical procedure. The donor’s medical and travel expenses are covered for the procedure.
Gibbons explained that she was inspired to hold the drive after a friend had donated bone marrow to her brother.
“For me personally, my friend has been holding [drives] a lot, so I wanted to do one here at CUA since she has gotten Georgetown, George Washington University, and several other schools to hold them,” said Gibbons. “I wanted to help support her cause.”
The drive will help benefit those who suffer from leukemia, lymphoma, and other blood-related diseases that are often life threatening. While the preferred bone marrow match is from within the patient’s family, about 70% of patients are unable to match with a family member for the transplant. The registry has about 12.5 million volunteers.
For Gibbons, the drive is a lot simpler than most think. “There is a lot that people don’t understand the actual process,” said Gibbons. “They often believe myths that you will be stuck with a needle and deal with a lot of pain to register, but that’s not the case.” We’re trying to get the younger generations involved.”
She also said the cause has a more personal meaning to her. “When I was a kid, I thought cancer was the really scary thing that you cannot do anything about. But something like this—being able to register and help means a lot, especially since I’ve known people who have fought cancer” she explained. “This drive means that people can come together and register for something all while actually making a difference.”
You can find more information on drives, the registry, and medical facts at BeTheMatch.org.