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Registry collects samples

Charitha Isanaka | Friday, April 27, 2012

Howard Hall and Morrissey Hall will hold a bone marrow drive today in LaFortune’s Dooley Room with Be the Match Registry, an organization in charge of the national bone marrow registry.

Event organizer Sarah Calahan said the drive promotes the dedication Notre Dame students have to service.

“We do so much service here to help people and improve the world – this is just another powerful way for you to save a life,” Calahan said. “It’s a great cause to get involved with so come on by for a free bro tank, free food and to save a life.”

Calahan said participants’ DNA samples are registered in the national registry after a sample is taken.

“All you have to do is take a glorified Q-tip [and] swab your cheek. If you are matched to a patient, then you can choose to donate your marrow,” said Sarah, “It is serious if you are called [because] you could save a person’s life.”

This year, the drive chose senior Bridget Dillon and sophomore Scott Dawson as its two spokespeople from the Notre Dame community. Dillon donated bone marrow last year to a pediatric patient.

“I was sitting in my best friend’s dorm room when I received a call that I was a possible match for a nine-year old girl with aplastic anemia,” Dillon said.

Calahan said though Dillon signed up for the registry during her sophomore year, she was chosen later because bone marrow matches are very rare.

“Out of the 500 people that register every year, Bridget was the only one who was requested to donate her marrow,” said Sarah.

Dawson said he was on the other side of the donation process. He said he had leukemia and got a bone marrow transplant during his sophomore year.

“I underwent four rounds of chemotherapy and thankfully have been cancer-free since,” Scott said. “Although I don’t need a transplant at this time, leukemia patients like me rely on generosity of donors through the Be The Match Registry to beat this disease.”

Calahan said technological improvements have made bone marrow transplants easier to perform than in the past.

“Bone marrow transplants are not as medically serious now as they were. 75 percent of the bone marrow transplants are non-invasive [and] performed non-surgically,” she said. “Blood is drawn from one arm, it is filtered and then put back into the other arm.”

Dillon said her transplant was surgically harvested. This exception was made since she was donating to a pediatric patient.

“Bone marrow transplants that were done surgically from the hip bone used to happen within families because no one wanted to go through so much pain for a stranger,” she said. “But now it is relatively simpler and so it is easier to save lives.”