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Finding Matches, Saving Lives

Posted at: 03/13/2013 12:38 PM
Updated at: 03/13/2013 10:41 PM
By: Brittany Falkers

Each year, thousands of people are diagnosed with blood cancers, such as leukemia or lymphoma. Many of them will die unless they get a bone marrow or cord blood transplant from a matching donor, according to the National Marrow Donor Program.

That is just one reason why pharmacy students at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) held their annual Bone Marrow Registry Drive Wednesday.  It is a chance for students, faculty and community members to sign up to be a donor and just maybe become a donor to save a life.

Seventy percent of people do not have a donor in their family and depend on a national registry to find a match to save their life, according to Be the Match Registry. Thousands of patients suffering from blood cancers search for a bone marrow donor match, but sadly, today six out of ten will not find one.

Angie Cavanaugh knows first hand the power of the bone marrow registry.  Cavanaugh recently finished her last round of chemo and is now cancer free, but it took a bone marrow donor to help get here here.

"It saved my life, literally," Cavanaugh said, "People can wait and wait and unfortunately, in some cases, waiting is the worst part and can cause death."

Since 2008, a combined effort of UMD's drives as well as registry drives at the College of St. Scholastica has found 20 donors who have helped to save the lives of those facing blood cancer, according to event coordinator Samantha Thao.

"It's so great.  It's really important and it's so great to see the turn out and so many people involved," Cavanaugh said.

Cavanaugh says signing up to be a donor is easy, with a simple cheek swab and some quick registration forms.  Then once you're finished your name is put on a registry as a possible match for anyone in need of a bone marrow transplant and just maybe save someone's life.

If chosen as a match, there are two ways to donate.  One way is through the blood by collecting stem cells, this happens about 70 percent of the time.  The other 30 percent of the time is through the bone.  Which is usually the case when marrow is donated for children.

For more information on bone marrow donation or to register to be a donor CLICK HERE.