Today: Jun 25, 2024

Bone marrow donations needed

Kaitlin Bradshaw, Staff Writer:
In the Engleman rotunda last week, Melissa Swearingen, a graduate student, stopped to fill out some paper work and gave a swab of her mouth and then went about her day. It took just five minutes for Swearingen to register to be a bone marrow donor.
“I like to help people,” said Swearingen. “I don’t know anyone with leukemia but not many things scare me. It was an easy process [to register].”
Patricia Fernandes of the Icla Da Silva Foundation held the bone marrow drive at Southern last week for three days in different areas on campus.
“We had 30 people register the first day in the Student Center,” said Fernandes. “We need much more but 30 is a good number.”
The bone marrow drive provided information about donating bone marrow, the process and also registration forms to fill out. After people filled out the registration form Fernandes then gave them a large cotton swab to take DNA from both sides of their mouths. From there the cotton swabs were sent to the national bone marrow headquarters in Minneapolis and are stored in the database waiting to be matched.
“It’s a very small chance that you will match someone, it can be years from now you are contacted to donate because it’s kept in the database until you are 61 years old,” said Luis Fernandes, Patricia’s husband.
Bone marrow is mainly used for leukemia patients that need a bone marrow transplant. Most patients with leukemia are under the age of 15 and are just small children. It’s very rare for a patient to find a match so when a donor is found through the database that is that patient’s second chance at life, said Fernandes.
“Some people are scared about the old-fashioned way they used to take the bone marrow. But it’s not done by the spine anymore; it’s really simple and done like blood. I did it in 2006 and saved the life of a Latino boy,” said Fernandes.
There are two different procedures used to donate, according to a hand out provided by Fernandes. The first way is actual bone marrow donation which is a surgical procedure where “doctors use special, hollow needles to withdraw liquid marrow from the back of your pelvic bones.” The second way is collecting bone marrow from circulating blood or PBSC donation.
“To increase the number of blood-forming cells in the bloodstream, donors receive daily injections of a drug called Figrastim for five days before the collection,” said the handout. “Your blood is then removed through a sterile needle in one arm and passed through a machine that separates out the blood-forming cells. The remaining blood is returned to you through the other arm.”
Fernandes said the entire process from leaving her house to coming home took a total of 30 hours.
“They picked me up at my house, went to New York, was in the hospital for the rest of the day and some of the second day then I was out shopping in the city and went home,” said Fernandes. “It was no sacrifice at all, you have a life: 30 hours is nothing.”
Luis Fernandes is also a registered bone marrow donor.
“It feels good to help someone in need,” he said.
Luis Fernandes hasn’t been matched with a patient yet but he says the more people that register the better–it’s very hard to find someone compatible.
“People just do it [donate] because they have someone in the family that needs it. I wish people would take the first step. I encourage everyone even if you don’t know someone. It’s nice to just help someone,” said Luis Fernandes. “Perspective changes when you get older–you appreciate it more.”
The second day the bone marrow drive was located in Engleman Hall and only 10 people registered, said Fernandes. The third and final day was at the Health and Wellness Fair where they hoped to register another 30 people like on the first day.
Fernandes said that people can register online at or even text match026 to 50555 to donate $10 to save lives.
“It’s easier for a Caucasian person to find a match, that’s why we need many people of mixed races to join to help others live,” she said.
Fernandes started as a volunteer for the Icla Da Silva Foundation and went to all the Connecticut colleges and universities to recruit people to donate.
“It’s very important to explain to people,” said Fernandes. “Seventy percent die without the transplant and 80 percent of that is under the age of 15. Save kids’ lives, it’s a one chance shot.”

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