By EMILY SCHABACKER/Montana State News
Bone marrow transplants can increase survival rate up to 97 percent in patients who suffer from life threatening blood cancers, according to the Be The Match website. Be The Match acts as the world’s largest and most diverse bone marrow registry in the world with nearly 27 million individuals registered as potential donors.
The first ever bone marrow transplant was a success in 1979 when 10-year old-Laura Graves was diagnosed with leukemia. Once Graves made a full recovery, her parents set out to organize a national bone marrow donor registry, according to Youtube video Be the Match: A History of Curing Blood Cancers.
John Philpott, community engagement representative for Be The Match, works to educate communities all over the country about marrow donation.
“We want to educate as many people as we can and give them the opportunity to decide if it’s the right thing for them to join the registry,” said Philpott.
There is no coercion from the Be The Match team to join the registry. But if an individual does decide to join they must express full commitment to donation because marrow transplant is likely a last resort for the recipient.
“Commitment is absolutely paramount,” said Philpott. “If a donor backs out then that ends in a funeral for the patient.”
Philpott is a leukemia survivor and recipient of a marrow transplant himself. His donor joined the registry at the University of New Mexico through a Be The Match on Campus program.
“None of this, my life, would have been possible without a group of students at the University of New Mexico in March of 2009 holding a drive on campus,” said Philpott at a Be the Match on Campus chapter meeting at Montana State University.
Seventy percent of patients who need a marrow transplant do not have a fully matched donor in their family, according to Be The Match. Upon registering, donors must provide ancestral history as well as a cheek swab in order to determine potential matches.
Matches are determined by correlating markers on the cells which tell the immune which cells belong in your body and which do not. The donor and recipient must match seven of the eight markers in order to conduct a successful transplant, according to the Be The Match website.
Only one in 430 registered donors are called upon to make a donation which is why donor Christian Lapp was so surprised when he was pulled from the marines to donate bone marrow.
“I got a phone call a couple months after I made the donation and they told me that the person I donated to had made a full recovery. That was one of the best moments in my entire life,” said Lapp.
Lapp has recently been appointed as the vice president of Marketing for MSU’s Be The Match on Campus chapter. He hopes to spread the word about Be The Match by working in tandem with Bozeman’s Subaru and Volkswagen dealerships to conduct bone marrow registry drives.
– edited by Michelle Burger