Sigma Psi Zeta sorority hosted its annual bone marrow registry drive on Wednesday, Sept. 27 and Thursday, Sept. 28 in Hirst Lounge of Wilson Commons.
Each year, over 30,000 children and adults in the United States are diagnosed with diseases that can be cured via a blood or marrow transplant. Blood and bone marrow transplants are most commonly used to aid in the treatment of leukemia and other blood diseases.
“Over the two days we held the drive, a total of 88 people registered.” Sigma Psi Zeta President Tiffany Tsui said. Another drive that was held this past spring brought in 44 people, bringing the total number of registrations to 132 people for 2006.
“By increasing the number of potential donors, we can give somebody a second chance at life,” Filipino American Students’ Association President and senior Pauline Nemitz said.
This year, the event was held in honor of Wincheng Lin, ’02, Sigma Psi Zeta sister and the original founder of the drive. Lin was diagnosed in June 2006 with Acute Undifferentiated Leukemia, a rare form of the cancer and her optimal chance of survival depends upon a bone marrow transplant.
Seventy percent of patients who need a bone marrow transplant are unable to find it within their families, so they are forced to go to the National Bone Marrow Registry,” Sigma Psi Zeta sister Christine Chan said. “About seven percent of donors are minorities and less than two percent are Asians. They look first within your family, then they look within race, ethnicity, age group and then going outside those borders, the chances of finding a potential match decreases.”
This year a cheek swab was utilized as part of the registration process. Scientists are then able to determine a donor’s tissue type from the cheek swab sample and that tissue type is put into the registry. One of the benefits of signing up during this bone marrow drive is that the process fee of $100 for the testing of the bone marrow is waived.
“A bone marrow transplant is a surgical procedure for which you are given local or general anesthesia,” Chan said. “After the surgery, you get medication to increase your bone marrow production, causing your body to work overtime to reproduce what it has lost. Within the week, you’re back to normal.”
It is possible that months, even years, can go by without a call from the registry. But, when the registry calls, a donor goes to his or her local hospital and undergoes a series of tests for further compatibility of the tissue. Once complete compatibility is determined, the donor can choose whether or not to go ahead with the transplant.
The drive was first started in 1998 when Lin and sorority sister Jeanette Moy held a bone marrow registry drive to support a friend of Moy’s from high school who had been diagnosed with leukemia. Unfortunately, the friend passed away, but the sorority deemed the event worthy of continuation due to its quintessential message.
“Our primary reason for holding this drive is to find a match for Wincheng and to raise awareness for the need of minorities in the registry,” Tsui said. “I think many people are unaware of what a patient needs to go though to find a match, or that a registry even exists, so hopefully the community will become more aware of this issue and help out the cause.”
This bone marrow drive is not restricted simply to the UR River Campus. The event is being held in conjunction with over 21 campaigns nation-wide, ranging from Washington, D.C. to Boston, Philadelphia to New York City.
“Our sorority has made this a nationwide effort, holding drives at every chapter of our sorority to find a match for our sister and to raise awareness of this issue,” Tsui said.
Although organized by Sigma Psi Zeta sorority, numerous student groups, including ADITI, BSU, CSA, FASA, KASA, SALSA, Sigma Beta Rho Fraternity, Inc. and the Medical Students of America, supported the bone marrow drive.
Prior to the actual bone marrow drive, Monday, Sept. 25 saw host to an informational coffee night in Hirst Lounge at which student groups such as the Strong Jugglers, UR HipHop, the Midnight Ramblers and the Yellowjackets performed. The coffee night served as additional publicity for the event, which the sorority had been publicizing for weeks.
“It was an honor to be able to take part in an event that could help their sister and raise awareness about the lack of minorities within the registry,” ADITI President Amita De Sousa said. “We received many positive comments and even if people were not able to register, we raised the cognizance, understanding and importance of bone marrow donation.”Halusic can be reached at email@example.com.