Radford University Carilion students stepped up to “be the match”
Radford University Carilion (RUC) students, faculty and staff stepped up to “be the match” on November 15, adding their information to a bone marrow registry.
The event began at noon, and a line had already formed at the table in the RUC third floor lobby. At the head of the line, participants swabbed the insides of their cheeks. Those swabs were then packaged, sent to the national Be The Match organization and subsequently analyzed. The data from the swabs ultimately joins a database of potential bone marrow donors. If participants match someone in need of their type of bone marrow, they will be contacted to see if they would be willing to donate.
The event was organized by Ara McCarty, a Doctor of Physical Therapy (D.P.T.) student, who said, “What better place to have a match event than here at RUC, with all of my healthcare-minded peers and teachers?”
McCarty first learned of the need for bone marrow donors through her father, a bone marrow transplant physician. As an undergraduate student, she completed a Be The Match profile and was paired with a patient in need. While she did not end up donating due to a decline in the health of the recipient, McCarty discovered a passion for the organization and their mission.
“It’s so important to have as many donors in the pool as possible,” McCarty said. “When someone is sick, that ray of hope for a cure is essential.”
According to Be The Match, every three minutes someone in the United States is diagnosed with a blood cancer, such as leukemia or lymphoma. Replacing the marrow in bones can help fight those diseases or can alleviate them completely in some cases. In addition to expanding its donor registry, through events like the one at RUC, Be The Match also conducts research to improve transplant outcomes and provides support for patients through a global network or resources and partnerships.
Saving those lives through bone marrow transplants begins with identifying suitable donors. That is why McCarty asked the leaders of the D.P.T. program about the possibility of having a Be The Match event on the RUC campus. McCarty said they were very supportive of the idea.
"The RUC administration, my program and my peers have all been great,” she said. “I hope a lot more people get matched though this event. It doesn’t matter if it’s one or a thousand as long as it saves a life.”
The ideal donors for Be The Match are 18 to 44 years old. People within that age range have a better chance of being matched, because research shows that cells from younger donors lead to more successful transplants, McCarty said.
Jake Wright, a fellow student in the D.P.T. program, was one of the participants who eagerly swabbed his cheek for the chance to be part of the registry.
“I was interested in being involved because as a future physical therapist my goal is to help people,” Wright said. “Whether it’s by donating bone marrow or giving someone physical therapy, it’s all about helping people get better. That’s why we’re all here at this event and at RUC.”
You can learn more about Be The Match, including how you can become part of the national bone marrow donor registry, at https://bethematch.org/.