It’s just a quick swab of the cheek. That was a line that convinced 304 Gustavus community members to participate in the bone marrow registry drive. The drive, run by a travelling sector of the national bone marrow donor program. Be the Match, was sponsored by the Swim and Dive team on March 5 and March 8. The Swim and Dive team created this event in response to the recent diagnosis of leukemia for the Gustavus swimmer, Sophomore Grace Goblirsch.
“That was the next logical step for us, letting people know that you could potentially save a life. It’s not just Grace out there, a lot of people need bone marrow transplants. You may never be called, but that would be really cool if you were.” Sophomore Swim and Dive teammate Breanna Schlegel said.
Registering to become a bone marrow transplant took Gusties about twenty minutes and was easy and painless. “The bone marrow drive was simple. There were two main parts, paperwork and taking a cheek swab. The paperwork was what threw a lot of people off because you needed the addresses of two people that you knew well but don’t live with, but cell phones make it easy to find that stuff out. The cotton swab part was even easier. To collect enough DNA samples all you had to do was rub a cotton swab in each corner of your mouth. It was a simple way to help people,” Registered Bone Marrow Donor Senior Kyle Edelbrock said.
Participating in the bone marrow drive does not necessarily mean that you will be asked to donate bone marrow. When someone with a blood cancer, such as leukemia, sickle cell or lymphoma is in need of bone marrow, doctors match their human leukocyte antigen tissue (proteins in your cells that determine which cells are harmful or helpful in your body) to the tissue of members in the potential donator database. About 1 in 540 people who join the registry match a patient in need and go on to donate bone marrow, according to Be the Match.
Because of the difficulty in finding a suitable donor for bone marrow, Be the Match stresses the need for potential donors to register.
“Patients need donors who are a genetic match. Even with a registry of millions, many patients cannot find a match. Donors with diverse racial or ethnic backgrounds are especially needed,” Be the Match website states.
The Swim and Dive team is happy with the turn out at the Gustavus Donor drive. “Our goal was to get 300 people to register, and like typical Gusties, we met that goal and exceeded it. We’re a close-knit team and we pride ourselves on having each other’s backs. For anyone, we’d be willing to step up. It’s really cool that it extended beyond our team really fast. Whether it’s the whole MIAC Swim and Dive or Gustavus community,” Schlegel said.
“I think the event was a big success. Not only did they get a lot of people thinking about the registry, but if even one Gustie ends up being a match, the drive made a huge difference in someone’s life. That’s all you can really hope for,” Edelbrock said.
With the success of this year’s donor drive, some swimmers are already thinking about making this an annual event. Students who want to immediately continue to support the fight against blood cancer can donate money to Be the Match. It costs about one hundred dollars to process tissue samples of each potential donor. That means that for the 304 Gustie tissue samples, the organization will spend around $30,400.
“Something I strongly believe in is that cancer doesn’t just affect the person with it, but everyone around it; teams, family, friends. If we keep that in mind, then we can really rally around that. The need is going to be endless,” Schlegel said.