Marrowthon: Saving a life may be simpler than you think

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - More than 100 people in the Midlands have already signed up on the Be The Match National Bone Marrow Registry since we launched the Friday Night Lights Marrowthon campaign.

That simple step could end up saving the lives of those fighting blood cancers or disorders, and we're hoping hundreds more of you will join us in the effort.

We've been telling you that with a few simple swabs of the cheek, you could "Be The Match" and a possible cure for someone fighting one of 80 different blood cancers or disorders.

So if you decide to sign up, what happens next?

"To even get to the process it's a longshot," said Ashley Collier, senior community engagement manager for Be The Match in South Carolina. "It's about a 1 in 70,000 chance that you're even going to be contacted."

However, Collier says there are 14,000 people in the US who need a transplant which is why it's so important to get a diverse group of donors. Of those who need a transplant, only 30 percent have a donor match in their family, but the rest rely on the registry.

"The public is still very unaware that they have an opportunity to help save someone's life that's genetically identical to them but completely unrelated, a stranger," Collier said.

Collier said they're ultimately matching tissue types, and in the chance that you are contacted, you'll have a blood test and a physical to confirm you are the best match.

Then there are two types of donations: stem cell and marrow.

"The most common process is what we call peripheral blood stem cell, so really it's like giving blood," Collier said. "Blood comes out of one arm filters through a machine that pulls out the stem cells that we then transplant to the patient that is searching and the blood goes back in the other arm."

That's the case for 75 percent of donations. Just 25 percent of donors contacted are asked to donate marrow.

"That's where we take it from your hip, but you are not awake and you are unaware that it is going on," she added. "It takes about an hour, and you are discharged after that procedure is over. There will be soreness and discomfort, but we ensure that is something that's not going to impact you negatively."

Collier says one of the important things to keep in mind is any impact from a donation on your end is minor compared to the person whose life you might help save.

"We want people to understand that it is something that they have the opportunity to do and any amount of discomfort compares nothing to an individual going through a battle with cancer or a battle with the blood disorder," Collier said.

It is free to sign-up on the registry for anyone ages 18-44. Collier says that age group is key because researchers say those donors tend to have the most successful transplants.

If you're 45-60 you can still sign up by giving a $100 donation which helps with processing your kit.

We'd also love to have you join us in person this Friday night at Spring Valley High School.

Before their Homecoming Game with White Knoll, Be The Match, Kick it Kaylin and the Spring Valley High School HOSA club will be there to register you in person.

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