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Howard Hall continues yearly tradition today

Peter Ninneman | Thursday, March 2, 2006

Howard Hall continues a tradition today with its sixth annual bone marrow drive – an event grounded in beginnings, which still resonate in the heart of the dorm’s residents.

The event began in 2000 when 2003 Notre Dame graduate Anne Gurucharri learned her father had been diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome – a rare form of leukemia – and would need a bone marrow transplant. Gurucharri was inspired by a drive held by Zahm Hall the year before, and set out to organize her own.

The drive – which will take place from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. today in the Sorin and Dooley rooms on the first floor of Lafortune – came through for the Gurucharri family, as an eligible donor was found within a few months. The transplant allowed Anne’s father to continue his battle with cancer long enough to live to see his daughter’s graduation the following year.

With the Gurucharri’s story in mind, Howard continued to hold the drive. Once again, dorm residents are seeking volunteers from the Notre Dame community for today’s event.

In past drives, multiple student donors like the one who helped the Gurucharri family have been contacted for further testing.

Co-commissioner Grace Shen said students have misconceptions about what the drive really involves.

“I’ve been trying to tell people to register, and they think they’re going to have to actually give bone marrow in LaFortune,” she said. “There’s a simple blood test and some paperwork. You give less than you would in a blood transplant.”

The donor’s information is entered into a computerized registry maintained by the National Marrow Donor Program. The database contains about four million possible donors, and allows people in need of a transplant to find a compatible donor, Shen said.

The event aims to recruit people who are not already registered. Donors who have already registered have their name kept in the registry until they are 61.

Shen said about 20 people have signed up already, but approximately 300 donors are expected. Howard will cover the cost of registration for all students.

Shen said organizers e-mailed freshmen and sophomores about the drive, as well as minority students. Compatibility matches are often consistent with shared ethnic backgrounds, she said, andminority patients, who are underrepresented in the national registry.

“I think it’s really imperative,” she said. “There’s a severe shortage [especially for minorities in need of transplants]. I’m glad Howard has this event that allows students to get involved.”