Bone marrow drive targets minorities

BY ANDREW KAPLAN
For the Daily
Published October 23, 2002

Students streamed into the Pond Room of the Michigan Union yesterday to participate in this year's minority bone marrow drive.

Paul Wong
JESSICA YURASEK/Daily
LSA freshman Esther Ling has her blood drawn by Jamie Flick at the Minority Bone Marrow Drive yesterday at the Michigan Union.

LSA senior Jessica Stallworth gave a sample of her blood in hopes of becoming a donor, "because I knew that African-Americans have a hard time finding matches."

Although the sponsors geared the drive toward minorities, students of all ethnicities were welcome to become potential donors.

"Every year about 30,000 people are diagnosed with some form of blood disease, such as leukemia, lymphoma and anemia," said Kim Barett, a medical worker for the Michigan Community Blood Center. "Many of them will need a marrow transplant in order to survive."

Unfortunately, telltale markers on a person's blood cells make matching up a patient and a donor a difficult process - especially for minorities. Of the thousands in need of a transplant, "about 25 percent will find a match within their family. The rest must find a match in the National Marrow Donor Program," Barrett added. "It's especially important for minorities to donate. Of the 4.7 million donors in the (national) registry, minorities are very underrepresented, especially African-Americans."

Due to inherited traits, patients in need of a transplant will most likely match up with marrow from a person of similar ethnic background. However, a lack of minority donors can make finding the right match a long, uphill endeavor for Hispanics, blacks, Asian or Pacific Islanders and Native Americans.

"I didn't really know how hard it is for minorities to get bone marrow, but back in grade school I can remember a friend who had a disease that needed marrow," said Chris Molina, a member of the Filipino American Student Association. Molina said his increased awareness encouraged him to volunteer at the drive.

To determine if a person is eligible to donate marrow, two tablespoons of blood must be analyzed and entered into a national database. Potentials under 60 years of age and in healthy condition may be contacted to donate marrow to a patient who matches their blood type.

Because of the costly process of blood "typing," becoming a potential donor normally costs $100. For minorities, a federal grant reimburses medical institutions the cost of typing. White donors must still pay the fee. To increase yesterday's turnout, however, the fee was waived for all students. The marrow drive gave students a chance to show their philanthropic sides.

LSA sophomore Chris Courbier saw the community benefit in attending the drive. "I never donated blood before and I figured I should start taking an active role," he said. "If I could help someone else, why wouldn't I?"

The drive was facilitated by the Blood Center and was sponsored by FASA, the Huaren Cultural Association, the Chinese Student Association, the Indian American Student Association and Lambda Phi Epsilon.