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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Temecula campus recruits 130 registrants for Be the Match bone marrow program

March 8, 2017

Temecula Be The Match student event 2

In each hour of every day, 15 people in the U.S. find out they have some form of blood cancer. Roughly 12,000 Americans get that devastating news each year, and then begin the all-consuming task of beating back this disease and reclaiming their lives.

Most of them depend on the life-giving contributions from others’ bodies to have any chance of success.

Be the Match is a national bone marrow registry program that matches potential donors with cancer patients in need of blood stem cells or a bone marrow transplant. On previous occasions, Dolores Ortiz, Community Engagement Representative for the Icla da Silva Foundation, a recruitment center for Be the Match Registry, has worked with the SJVC Temecula campus to register student, staff and faculty donors.

Shannon Koh, Academic Dean, has conducted previous Be the Match registration drives on campus. “I knew we really have an active HOSA (Health Occupational Students of America) Club and that this was something they would find interesting,” says Shannon. “They were all in! They made posters, went into classrooms and had a whole new energy about it because when a student group presents an activity to their peers, they are more likely to get involved.”

14 Medical Assisting program students and HOSA members, led by President Sarahi Diaz Esqueda, took on this project and organized a donor-recruiting event for February 6th. “We were excited, but a little bit nervous, because we didn’t know what kind of response we would get from the school,” says Sarahi. “People get scared automatically because they didn’t know how the donation was made.”

Ms. Ortiz met with classes and explained what it means to become a donor; the registration process, the likelihood of being a match, the extraction procedures and what their participation means to waitlisted recipients. She explained that those who wished to register as a donor would fill out application and consent forms, and provide a cheek swab whose lab results are entered into a database for potential matches.

HOSA members asked to be trained to help students through the process of paperwork requirements and cheek swabs. “HOSA was all over the room for whenever someone was lost, or to answer questions, or if someone was afraid, or helping with the actual swabbing procedure,” says Sarahi.

At the end of the day, 130 donors registered to make a very personal effort to save a life.

It takes about 6-8 weeks to process the swab before the donor is officially added to the national registry.

If a match is made, the donor may decline participation or continue with the process by one of two methods of extraction. The first method is similar to donate blood via an IV in the donor’s arm. Blood stem cells are removed from the blood before being returned through a second IV. This is the method by which 75% of donations are made.

The second method is an outpatient surgical procedure performed under anesthesia. A small amount of liquid marrow is extracted from the donor’s pelvic bone, with minimal side-effects.

All travel expenses, including meals, car rental and child care, are covered by the national Be the Match Registry.

“We have facilitated more than 68,000 marrow and cord blood transplants, which is an average of more than 520 patients a month,” says Ms. Ortiz. “Each day we give 17 patients hope for a future.”

Medical Assisting program graduate Tanisha Autrey shares her experience of registering and then donating the gift of life to a young boy in Europe. “I was still in school when I participated in the swab test, and I just thought of my daughter ever needing something like this and would hope someone would do it for her.”

Tanisha got the call. A little boy in Europe was a match. He couldn’t produce his own white blood cells, so Tanisha went through the extraction process in April 2016 to try to save his life.

“I’m not going to lie; I was very nervous,” says Tanisha. “But I get to say that I saved a life. Boy, oh boy, let me tell you it feels so good to be considered a hero in someone’s eyes. I will never get the chance to meet him and see him grow, but I do hope I can do this again.”

“HOSA members definitely appreciated the response from students,” says Sarahi. “The feedback I got was that they felt great about themselves that they were part of such a great cause, promoting and helping classmates learn more about this cause.”

“It is important that they (students) become good citizens and learn that there is a bigger world than themselves,” says Shannon. “To show actual cases, for students to see that this is a person who would not be with us anymore if people like them did not get involved; that has great value.”

A special thank you’ goes out to the Temecula campus HOSA Club members: Sarahi Diaz Esqueda, President, Kryshelle Plunkett, Vice President, Kayla Santos, Secretary, Lindsey Bartosiewicz, Amanda Gardner, Korina Hill, Keauna Hinton, Rosi Jimenez, Rosie Leon, Corrie Prevost, Shyanne Roney, Jose Sumano, Vianney Talavera and Briana Ugalde.