Get Swabbed…Save a Life

Posted on October 19, 2011


The following article was written by Shana Eatman, a senior student at Northeastern University.

Bone Marrow Donation. What do you think when you first hear those words? Pain, uneasiness, fear? I definitely had my reservations and I won’t lie; I used to think the same thing too. But I soon learned the truth behind being a bone marrow donor and the common misconceptions associated with the process of donating bone marrow. There are two ways to donate bone marrow: from the bloodstream or from the pelvic bone. Possible side effects from the bloodstream include headaches or bone or muscle aches several days before the collection. However, the achiness subsides shortly after the collection. When donating bone marrow from the pelvic bone, one can expect some discomfort in their lower back and may experience side effects from the anesthesia (nausea, sore throat, or lick headedness). The marrow will completely regenerate within a few weeks. For more information on the processes, click here.

So, it really isn’t that bad after all. But why register to be a bone marrow donor? It’s simple yet substantial: you can save a life.  The process is about ten minutes long and all it takes is a effortless cheek swab. While I was interning in Washington, DC last spring, my roommate Caitlin Emma introduced me to the world of bone marrow donation. She told me her story: she was swabbed her freshman year. She was a match and she donated bone marrow. After donating, she organized a bone marrow drive, herself and just this past summer; she was able to meet Jazz, the 10-year-old girl whose life she saved. You can find her inspiring story here.

Now, why am I organizing a bone marrow donor drive? First of all, I was moved by Caitlin’s remarkable story. But secondly, I am organizing this bone marrow donor drive because of the need for minority and multiethnic donors. As someone who is mixed-race myself, I was surprised to find out how race holds such a critical role in finding a marrow match. For mixed-race patients, mono-racial parents and relatives will not likely match them and sibling holds a 1 in 4 chance. Also, only 12% of the 7 million Americans listed as potential donors are minorities. Nu Mix, Northeastern University’s Multicultural Organization, wants to raise awareness about health disparities in securing bone marrow donations for minority patients and help add more potentially life saving registrations to the national registry. You may remember the heartbreaking story of Shannon Tavarez, the 11-year-old who played Young Nala in Broadway’s Lion King. Ravarez passed away because she wasn’t able to find a match because she was mixed-race.

Finally, I hope you will join us in our endeavor to get as many people registered as possible- campus and community wide. The “Get Swabbed!” Bone Marrow Donor Drive will be at Northeastern University in the Curry Student Center Ballroom. The event will be from 11am-5pm on November 8, 2011. Nu Mix will be sponsoring this event along with: Colleges Against Cancer, Latin American Student Organization (LASO), Kappa Kappa Gamma, Kappa Sigma, and the NU Rugby Team. We hope to see you there! (And if you can’t make it, register online!)

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