Since he was born, John Decker, a student at Monroe County Community College, has suffered from Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome, a rare genetic disease which attacks the immune system and causes a low white blood cell count. The syndrome requires a bone marrow transplant, and after contracting another illness two years ago, Decker”s need for a transplant became immediate.
As part of Decker”s search for a donor, a bone marrow drive is being held in the Michigan Union on Thursday from 11- 6 p.m.
While most bone marrow donations come from family members, Decker”s family has been unable to provide a match. However, his brother Josh, also diagnosed with the disease, received a successful bone marrow transplant in 1999. The success prompted his family to start “Take a Test, Save a Life,” in the attempt to find John a match.
According to the National Bone Marrow Program, the chances of finding a match from a stranger are one in 20,000, but the family is determined not to give up hope.
However, Decker”s unique genetic make-up has made the search next to impossible. Out of over 4 million people registered with the National Bone Marrow Program, not one is a match. The phenotype the physical expression of the genes he inherited from his parents of his HLA genes is extremely rare. The HLA gene is similar to one”s blood type because in order for a bone marrow transplant to be successful, the donor and the recipient must have the same HLA gene
His mother, Donna, remains optimistic despite his unique gene type. “He can”t be the only person out there walking around with it,” she said.
A bone marrow drive consists of testing and analyzing someone”s blood. If there is a match, a small sample of the donor”s bone marrow is removed with a needle from the top of the hip bone. The process takes only a couple of minutes and is painless, and donors are released after a day.
According to the Bone Marrow Foundation, more than 50,000 blood and bone marrow transplants are done each year.
The bone marrow drive isn”t the only way the University is reaching out to surrounding communities this coming week.
Alpha Phi Omega, a co-ed service fraternity, and Blood Drives United, are organizing a series of spring blood drives around campus. The drives act as a sequel to the fall Blood Battle, which the two groups also sponsored.
Sean Meyers, co-chair of Blood Drives United, said the blood supply in Southeastern Michigan is at “record lows.”
“There”s been an emergency appeal for the last month,” said American Red Cross spokeswoman Amy Neale. Neale said that while this year”s Martin Luther King Day blood rally generated a lot of blood, the supply has been used up. Southeastern Michigan uses about 700 pints of blood every day.
Fear is often a reason people hesitate to donate blood.
“A lot of people have never tried, so they are just scared of doing it. Once they”ve tried, they find it”s not so bad,” said Meyers, an Engineering sophomore.
For each student who does give blood, Neale said it can go a long way.
“A pint of blood can save three person”s lives. It”s really pretty remarkable if you think about it,” she said.
Not everyone who wants to can give blood. Tattoos, fevers and low blood iron levels are the top reasons students are turned away.
The blood drives are being held at residence halls throughout the week. The first drive is today at Stockwell Residence Hall from noon to 6 p.m.
Students giving blood should expect the process to take an hour. Students hoping to get in and get out quickly can set up an appointment on the Internet by going to www.redcross.org.