Get swabbing to save a life
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By: Michal Coret
If you walked through the MUSC atrium this past Tuesday, then you might have noticed tables of people with cotton swabs in their mouths (for charity, of course!). This was the Get Swabbed event organized by OneMatch and run by the AEPi fraternity and DeltaPi sorority with the help of additional volunteers. And no, despite the name, OneMatch is not a dating site.
The goal of Get Swabbed is to recruit new registrants to the OneMatch registry for stem cell donation. The cotton swabs are for collecting cell samples from the insides of your cheeks. These are sent to the Canadian Blood Services for lab tests and human leukocyte antigen typing. Your DNA is then kept in the registry for several decades.
The one match team will contact you if your DNA is matched to a patient requiring a stem cell transplant. Based on patient needs and the decisions of the medical team, there are two ways that you could be asked to donate your stem cells. Firstly, you could donate via a peripheral blood stem cell donation. This is a non-surgical procedure, completed in an outpatient clinic at the hospital where your blood stem cells are boosted, followed by a blood donation. Alternatively, you could donate via a bone marrow stem cell donation. This is a surgical procedure where stem cells are removed from the iliac crest at the back of your hip bones. Donors are placed under anesthesia for the full procedure and the recovery is usually quite quick with some mild pain to be expected. Your option to refuse donation will also be accepted.
The Canadian Blood Services work together with global organizations to match donors and patients. This global collaboration means that you could be matched to a patient on the other side of the world. Patients commonly in need of stem cells are those suffering from cancer, aplastic anemia or various inherited blood diseases. Imagine the phone call telling you that you are the only person in the world that can save the patient’s life. We all have the chance to make a true impact.
Tuesday’s event was a great success, with over 160 new McMaster registrants to the OneMatch database. More Get Swabbed events will be held over the year, so don’t fret if you have missed this one. Alternatively, scan the QR code for OneMatch’s website below to register by mail from your home. Get swabbing to save a life!
Who is eligble?
You may be eligible to join if you are between 17 and 35 years old. Health problems that could make you ineligible include: heart conditions, cancer, blood diseases, insulin-dependent diabetes and infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS or hepatitis. There are also height and weight restrictions.
What happens if I’m a match?
Your blood will undergo additional testing to determine the full extent of your compatibility. You will also need to be tested for transmissible diseases. You will complete a physical examination and routine medical tests. If you agree to proceed, the patient will be notified and the elimination of his or her diseased bone marrow will begin.
Photo Credit: CFMU