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SMC junior donates stem cells

| Wednesday, February 11, 2015

This year, junior and co-president of Saint Mary’s College Dance Marathon went a step beyond her group’s mission to raise awareness and money for the Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis — she donated her own stem cells in the form of blood over the summer.

Dance Marathon advocates for Be the Match, an organization that offers the largest and most diverse marrow registry through 600 centers worldwide. According to the Riley Children’s Foundation website, Lukomski received an email from Be the Match asking her to donate her stem cells to help save the life of a 60-year-old female with Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS) in July.  MDS is a bone marrow disorder in which the bone marrow does not produce enough healthy blood cells, and stems cells are not produced at all.

According to Riley Children’s Foundation website, Lukomski gave a sample during a drive on campus sponsored by Stand Up To Cancer Club. Lukomski said once a person registers her swabbed cheek sample through Be The Match, she remains on the registry for life. Some prospective donors many never be called, and every donor is always given a choice to opt out.

“Everything is up to you,” Lumoski said. “If I wanted to stop [the process] the morning of my donation, they would have to respect that, which I think makes the organization better.”

Lukomski said she was given two options when contacted to donate.

“The first option is to donate your stem cells, which is the most common,” she said. “The second option is more invasive, in which they actually go into your hipbone and extract bone marrow.”

Lukomski said she was asked to donate stem cells in the form of blood. The extraction process took a total of six hours, she said.

“After [winter] break I was notified that my recipient is out of the hospital and is doing well,” Lukomski said. “That is all I know for now unless she decides to reach out to me.”

Lukomski did not actually lose any blood because the medical technicians extracted the stem cells out of her blood and then pumped the blood back through her body. Lukomski said the only side affect of her donation experience was mild tiredness from the shots the doctors gave her — a small price to pay for a worthwhile cause.

“If I’m going to have to be a little tired in order to save a life, why not?” Lukomski said.

In a Riley blog post, Lumoski attributes her inspiration to donate to her family and friends.

“… Without them I would not have had the mindset to donate,” she said. “They were the people who taught me so much about the world and giving.”

“The other support system I had was my Dance Marathon Executive Board,” Lukomski said. “I left the hospital and realized that I will forever be a part of someone else. A stranger had turned into my biggest inspiration.”

Joining the Be The Match registry is very simple and can be done online at bethematch.org. The organization also comes to campus to collect samples for students interested in becoming potential donors.

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