Blood drive seeks bone marrow donors

By Geoff Smith
Arizona Daily Wildcat
October 23, 1996

Katherine K. Gardiner
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Amy Martin, sophomore majoring in English, has blood drawn by phlebotomist Michael Gallardo so she can be placed on a national bone marrow donor list. The test, which normally costs $65, is being offered free during the Red Cross Blood Drive this week by the Pima County Medical Auxiliary.


This year's UA vs. ASU Blood Donor Challenge is also challenging people to help those in need of a bone marrow transplant.

Order of Omega, the Greek National Honorary, is helping the University Medical Center's division of the National Bone Marrow Donor Registry recruit possible marrow donors.

This is the second year the National Bone Marrow Donor Registry has run a drive in conjunction with the Blood Donor Challenge. Also helping in this year's registry drive is the Pima County Medical Society Auxiliary, an organization whose members are spouses of Pima County physicians.

Representatives for the bone marrow registry will only be at the Memorial Student Union and Coronado Residence Hall locations of the blood drive.

Susan Taylor, chairwoman of the bone marrow donor committee for the Pima County Medical Society Auxiliary, said that every year, 100,000 people are diagnosed with a disease of the blood or of a bone tissue, such as leukemia. When treatments such as chemotherapy are ineffective, these people may need a bone marrow transplant.

She said 25 percent of those patients will be able to find a matching donor within their family from a brother or sister. The other 75 percent will find a matching donor from the registry.

For this reason, Taylor said, Congress created the National Donor List in 1987. The list, which contains the names and tissue types of people worldwide, gives patients a chance to find a matching donor.

Taylor said to get on the list, a donor must go through a five to 10 minute screening. A sample of four teaspoons of blood is then taken.

Although the initial tests to be placed on the registry normally cost $65, the Pima County Medical Society Auxiliary is donating funds to cover the costs during this week's donor drive.

Taylor said the $65 fee often discourages would-be donors.

"College students don't have much money," said Beth Martin, vice president of membership for Order of Omega. "This is an opportunity for us to do something we might not otherwise have been able to afford."

Donors must be between the ages of 18 and 61, in good health and with no personal history of serious medical illness. The donor must also not have had any tattoos or body piercing in the last year.

"You stay on the list until your 61st birthday," Taylor said. "Donors are removed from the list at that time for their own protection. It becomes more difficult to undergo the donor procedures when you get older."

When a donor on the registry is found to be a potential match, they are contacted and asked if they are still interested in becoming a donor. The donor then undergoes a further series of tests to confirm the matching bone marrow tissue type as well as extensive counseling on the procedures.

If a definite match is made, the donor undergoes an operation under general anesthetic, removing between 2 percent and 5 percent of the body's bone marrow. The cost of the surgery is covered by the insurance of the patient receiving the donation.

After the surgery, Taylor said donors usually experience extensive bruising. A night in the hospital is recommended, but most people usually return to work or school the next day. The body regenerates the lost marrow within three weeks, she said.

Donors can only give marrow one time in a calendar year, but exceptions can be made if a donor's relative is in need before the year expires.

"This is the only tissue you can donate without dying," Taylor said. "It is the living gift of life."

Phyllis Renkenberger, UMC bone marrow registry coordinator, said there are currently over 5,000 names on the local registry. The national registry has just over 2.4 million names of donors.

The Medical Society Auxiliary will also give $100 to the two campus groups that have the largest participation in the bone marrow drive. The money will be used to fund a community service project of the winning groups' choice. Last year's winners were Chi Phi Fraternity and Delta Gamma Sorority.