UNMC Students Push for More Bone Marrow Donors

Nicole Ebat

OMAHA(KPTM)--University of Nebraska Medical Center Students want to know if you could be a match--for bone marrow that is.

They're registering people for the national Be the Match donor registry.

The group is working on the project called " Decrease the Donor Deficit". They say thousands of people with blood diseases need marrow.

"It's really hard to get a match right now," said Kassandra Connell, the group's president. "It's even harder if you're in a minority because we just don't have as many donors."

Be the Match notes it does have millions of people signed up to be potential bone marrow donors, but it needs to be a close genetic match.

Many times, even family members won't be the right fit.

Because of that, the registry needs a big and wide range of people willing to donate. People with "diverse racial or ethnic backgrounds" are needed.

Connell has a personal reason for wanting to see the registry grow: her friend recently died from leukemia. None of her friend's family members were a marrow match, but she was able to find a donor through the registry. Connell says if it wasn't for that donor and the registry, her friend wouldn't have made it to her wedding day.

"I couldn't help much while she was sick, so this is kind of my way to help out someone else," she said.

Signing up to be a donor only takes a few minutes of paperwork and four cheek swabs.

"You can save someone's life just by becoming a donor, so why wouldn't you?" said Laura Vinson right after she signed up.

The students say some people might be afraid of the pain associated with donating bone marrow. But they point out that only 1 in 500 people in the registry actually get called to donate.

Some donors

Even then, they say it's still worth it.

"The pain and everything like that is not comparable to being able to save someone's life or someone's child or a family member," said Connell.

She also said no one knows when they might be on the other side of the list and if that time comes, people would want as big a pool of donors as possible.

People can sign up for the registry Wednesday, Nov. 14 from 12-5 p.m. at the Sorell Center for Health Science Education in the student lounge area. That's near Emile and 42nd Streets.