Colleges to host bone marrow registry drives

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Four upcoming bone marrow registry drives at local colleges have been organized with the help of a Hamilton College staffer who became involved in such efforts a year ago when her brother was searching for a donor.

While her brother later was matched with a donor from Germany for a stem cell transplant, Betty House of West Winfield is continuing to help organize bone marrow registry drives, noting “we’ve got the cure...but we don’t have the people in the registry.” The registry drives, which are in conjunction with the Be the Match organization and in cooperation with colleges, include these sites, all from 11 a.m.- 2 p.m.:

• Feb. 17, Hamilton College, in the Beinecke Alcove.

• Feb. 24, Mohawk Valley Community College, in the Alumni College Center on the Utica campus.

• March 30, Utica College, in the Strebel Student Center.

In addition, on April 13 a Be the Match booth will be at the SUNY Polytechnic Institute Wellness Fair, from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. in the Student Union.

Healthy people between ages 18-44 are needed for the drives, said House. They involve filling out a short health questionnaire and getting cheeks swabbed, she noted. If a person eventually is found to be a match, a subsequent donation can be made.

An administrative assistant in the Days-Massolo Center at Hamilton College, House said her brother, an Albany-area resident, was diagnosed a year ago with a blood cancer. He needed a bone marrow transplant to survive, but “there was no match for him in our family” nor in the registry, she added. House became involved in registry drives in the Albany area as well as at Hamilton College. She said she also has contacted other colleges, and “the results have been terrific;” a Feb. 4 event at Herkimer College added 42 people to the registry.

The German donor for her brother was found otherwise through Be the Match’s worldwide registry, said House, and he had a stem cell transplant last May. He now “is doing terrific,” and has “completely converted to his donor’s healthy immune system,” she added.

House said she will continue to volunteer for Be the Match, observing that the drives at local colleges are “a great place to recruit young, healthy potential donors.”

Her goal is to help such campus drives occur “as often as blood drives.”

At any given time, more than 10,000 persons are in need of a bone marrow/stem cell transplant, House said. In the U.S., she said, 25 percent of those in need find donors within their families and 25 percent find a donor match in the registry, but 50 percent cannot find a match.

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