Students help recruit donors
UH students lined up Thursday to sign up as potential bone marrow donors and learn about leukemia patients in need.
Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center Recruitment Specialist Michael C. Brown spent time recruiting at the University Center Satellite, with the help of pharmacy students.
Donors have to be a perfect match with the intended recipients, Brown said. Donors need to have the same 10 antigens in their blood as the patient.
Antigens, a substance that helps produce antibodies, are needed for patients after undergoing chemotherapy, which weakens both the diseased marrow and the immune system in leukemia patients, according to the National Marrow Donor Program’s Web site.
The process is especially difficult for minorities who have a harder time finding matches, Brown said.
"The most people dying in the U.S. of leukemia are minorities," Brown said. "With 10 Caucasians, 8.5 of them would find a match, with 10 minorities only 1.5 would find a match."
Psychology junior Darlene Perales filled out her consent form, swabbed her mouth and is now a potential donor.
"I am aware that we Hispanics are least capable to sign up to donate and if there is a little girl or boy who needs it, I may be up to doing it," Perales said.
The cheek cell swabs are tested for tissue types and added to the donor registry, which is checked against a patient’s type, according to the NMD Program Web site.
Pharmacy freshman Vickie Patel handed out consent forms while asking students to sign up.
"UH is very diverse and a lot of the bone marrow registry doesn’t have many registered minorities, and only 7 million donors are registered in the bone marrow base in the entire world," Patel said.
The National Marrow Donor Program, established in 1986, recruits in Houston as well as every major city in the U.S. and throughout the world, Brown said. People between the ages of 18 and 36 are the best donors because they are young, which make colleges a good place to find them, Brown said.
"There’s about 6,000 patients searching for a bone marrow match. We have saved about 40,000 lives world wide since this program started," Brown said.
There are two types of procedures in donating bone marrow. Marrow harvest is when the stem cells are taken from the hip. Peripheral blood stem cell is newer and is similar to donating blood.
Pharmacy graduate student Nancy Chung explained how the newer method is better.
"The old way was to get it from your hip bone and it was really painful, but they have this machine they invented seven years ago which filters your blood through two I.V. fusions and filters out the stem cells," Chung said. "It’s not as painful as the older technique."
Students can learn more about becoming donors by calling 1-800-MARROW-2 or visiting www.marrow.org.
Pharmacy junior Khushbu Patel told students how important the situation is. Registering makes a difference, Patel said.
"The student population is healthy, so I think it would be best if students could register to be a donor. We’re a healthy population, so we can make a difference," Patel said.