Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

USM hosts bone marrow drive

Lavena Jordon (left) a senior nursing major, and Abby Krolak, a sophomore nursing major sit at a welcoming table in Woodbury Campus educating students on the process of donating Bone Marrow.
Krysteana Scribner | The Free Press
Lavena Jordon (left) a senior nursing major, and Abby Krolak, a sophomore nursing major sit at a welcoming table in Woodbury Campus educating students on the process of donating Bone Marrow.

Posted on April 27, 2015 in News
By Krysteana Scribner

Last week, a bone marrow drive was held at the Woodbury Campus Center so volunteers could sign up to become a potential match for someone in dire need of a transplant.

Bone marrow cancer is a form of leukemia, a cancer of the bloodstream. According to the Maine Medical Center Developmental Department, individuals diagnosed with bone marrow cancer will eventually need a transplant. However, only 30 percent of patients are able to find a compatible donor within their family. This leaves the other 70 percent reliant on marrow donations from strangers in order to survive.

Micaela Manganello, a sophomore nursing major at USM, sat at one of three tables set up to greet and process interested students in the campus center. Manganello explained that there are a lot of misconceptions about donating, but the process overall is an easy one.

“The first table students approached was where I sat and helped them fill out the appropriate paperwork with their information,” said Manganello. “The second table was for cheek swabbing to sample if you were a possible match for someone, and the third to get your donor card with all your information.”

For individuals who donated, their information was put into the national registry where any patient searching for a donor can match with them. Swabs done on cheeks were immediately sent to a laboratory for testing. This process allows doctors to look for similar protein markers on their cells to match a patient with a donor. If a match is found, you get another call and go in for some final testing before the actual donation process occurs.

“The paperwork is honestly the hardest part,” said Manganello. “If it takes a minute or two out of your day and it helps someone else in the long run, then I promise it will be worth your time.”

Donors may only be asked to give their blood, which will then be transferred into the veins of a patient with incurable leukemia to keep them comfortable as the disease progresses. For most patients, especially young children, a bone marrow transplant is their best chance for survival.

There is the common misconception that donating bone marrow entails high risk and painful surgery to drill into your bone. Arlene O-Rourke, a nurse practitioner at the New England Cancer Specialist Center, said that marrow isn’t the only form of donation and the biggest risk with surgery is one that’s taken in most medical procedures.

“When someone donates their marrow, they go through a procedure where it is removed from inside the bone,” said O-Rourke. “A long needle extracts this liquid marrow from the hipbone and it is then put aside to be transferred into the patient with the disease. When you wake up, you’re sore for a few days but it doesn’t affect you in the long run.”

O-Rourke said that the biggest risk associated with donating is going under anesthesia, which is a risk that comes with any surgery. There is also a minimal risk of infection, but that shouldn’t deter someone from donating because donating can save a life.

“The cool thing about being a donor is if you do happen to match someone, they give you a progress report on how they’re doing,” said Manganello. “If both the participant and the recipient consent to it, you can meet the person you helped.”

According to the National Cancer Institute, every four minutes someone is diagnosed with blood cancer. Out of all these patients, six out of 10 will not receive a bone marrow transplant because a match cannot be found. However, O-Rourke said this could be combated if more people would be willing to donate.

“Leukemia is more common in children because they’re growing and in elderly people because their bones are weak. If a child has rapidly growing cells, they can mutate into leukemia,” said O-Rourke. “It’s so important to donate because you donating marrow can save a child’s life and add fifty or more years to their existence.”

Lauren Durkin, a sophomore nursing major, encouraged people to donate marrow. For Durkin, the reality of needing a transplant hits close to home.

As children, her two older brothers were diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, a form of childhood leukemia. Both of her brothers were able to find matches from strangers willing to donate to the cause. When Durkin turned fourteen, she was also diagnosed with myelodysplastic, but doctors were unable to find a matching donor for her.

“I actually had a cord blood transplant because they couldn’t find me a match,” said Durkin. “I had to go through chemotherapy and radiation, which basically destroyed my entire immune system.”

Durkin further explained that upon receiving the transplant, she basically was given a new immune system. She was in the hospital for six weeks after the transplant so doctors could keep an eye on her.

Durkin wants people to know that even though donating sounds scary, it’s actually pretty easy and can really save lives.

“When they told me I didn’t have a bone marrow match, it was a scary realization,” said Durkin. “I was lucky enough to have a cord blood match and my brothers were lucky to have bone marrow matches. I don’t know where we would be had it not been for the kindness of donors.”

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