Pictured following the Be The Match presentation in Dr. Edward Omolo's microbiology class are (front, l-r) Emily Nardella, Lorisa Squires, Samantha Boyce, Kylie Gobel, Miranda Johnson; (back, l-r) Matt Tyler, Amy Winebrenner, Mackenzie Mullins, Tiara Mowery, Kerri Stalnaker, Betsie Letterle of the Be the Match Foundation, Edward Omolo, Christy Starcher and Angela Neff
[SUMMERSVILLE, W. VA] Betsie Letterle, account executive from the National Marrow Donor Program of the Be the Match Foundation, spent Wednesday and Thursday, Sept. 4 and 5, at the Nicholas County Campus of New River Community and Technical College in Summersville, W. Va. She spoke to students in a number of classes about the foundation's work in recruiting bone marrow donors for patients with diseases like leukemia and sickle cell anemia.
Be the Match Foundation is the largest, most diverse registry of potential marrow donors in the world, offering one-on-one support, education and guidance before, during and after transplant.
Letterle explained that finding donors whose tissue matches that of patients is a very complex process because there are so many tissue types. Because finding a match often means finding someone of the same ethnicity, it is important that people from diverse ethnic backgrounds become donors.
"We currently have 11 million potential donors on the registry, but the bulk of them are Caucasian," Letterle said. "Only seven percent are African-American, and only around one percent are Native American."
She explained that there is on average one match for every 540 people on the registry. Anyone between the ages of 18 and 44 can donate tissue, with the exception of those with insulin dependent diabetes, sleep apnea, major back problems (particularly those with rods or pins), immune system disorders, most cancers and some other disorders.
If you are between the ages of 45 and 60, you may join the registry online with a $100 tax-deductible payment.
The test to obtain tissue for matching is a simple cheek swab. There are two different ways to donate. Liquid bone marrow can be extracted from the hip, a procedure during which the donor is under anesthesia (more often performed on pediatric donors). The most common method is to extract stem cells from a vein in the arm.
One of the roles of the Be the Match Foundation is to raise funds to cover the costs of testing and harvesting the bone marrow from donors. Once a match is made, the marrow recipient's insurance covers any expenses incurred by the donor.
The presentations at the Nicholas County Campus were coordinated by Emily Browning, instructor of biology. Thirty-nine new donors were recruited during Letterle's two-day visit to the campus. Additionally, students in the Medical Assisting Program, under the supervision of Karen Tully, have offered to hold a fundraiser to support the Foundation's efforts sometime later in the year.
For more information about the Be the Match Foundation, visit BeTheMatch.org, or call toll-free 800-627-7692.