Hillel urges students to 'get swabbed' with bone marrow drive

Members of Hillel at Ohio University will seek to live out the Jewish tradition of “tikkun olam” with a bone marrow drive today.

The drive is a practical way to implement the Hebrew phrase, which means “repairing the world,” said Lauren Goldberg, an office administrator with Hillel. Members will swab cheeks to seek possible bone marrow matches from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. today outside of the fourth floor of Baker University Center.

“This is an aspect of the mission of Hillel, and it means engaging this community in actions that include social justice, community service and helping those in need,” Goldberg said.

The process, which includes a cheek swab and paperwork, takes about five minutes.

This is the fourth year Hillel has held bone marrow drives, which it conducts in partnership with the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation.

“Marrow is a substance found inside bones,” states the Puget Sound Blood Center’s website. “It resembles blood and contains blood stem cells, which produce red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets important for carrying oxygen, fighting infection and helping to control bleeding.”

Patients with leukemia, a cancerous disease that causes bone marrow to produce abnormal white blood cells, often need bone marrow transplants. A transplant replaces old bone marrow damaged by radiation treatment, which is often the main force used against diseases like leukemia.

About 70 percent of patients who need bone marrow are not compatible with family members and thus rely on unrelated donors. Matches are rare, which is why Hillel seeks to swab a large population.

“We’re trying to really get every single person in Athens swabbed,” Goldberg said.

In March 2009, Hillel set the record for the largest bone marrow drive ever on a college campus at the time, and the organization hopes to surpass that previous high of more than 2,500 people this year.

More than 4,000 students, faculty members and Athens residents have participated in the event's first three years, about 100 were further tested as possible matches and seven participants eventually became donors, Goldberg said.

OU senior Lauren Kahn was swabbed in 2009 at Hillel’s bone marrow drive, and in early 2011, she received notice that she was eligible to donate. Several months later, she was flown to Pennsylvania for the harvesting procedure and spent several weeks recovering.

Kahn was told her marrow would help a two-year-old girl with leukemia, and she said this sealed her decision to donate.

 “I didn't think twice about it, especially for a little girl,” she said. “Giving a person and their family hope is more important than any discomfort I felt.”

Hillel will hold additional bone marrow drives from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 4 and Oct. 18 outside of Baker’s fourth floor.nc


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