Marrow Registry Drive: the potential to save a life

There has been a lot of discussion on campus lately about what difference we as individuals can actually make on the world. Many problems seem just too complex and/or overwhelming to approach. But Ryu Yokoi ’01 and I have organized an event that is by and large free of those uncertain tensions. On Wednesday, April 26, there will be a Marrow Registry Drive in Baxter Lounge from 11am-5pm. It takes just 15 minutes and a tablespoon of blood to enter the Registry. By registering as a potential donor, you may someday have an opportunity to offer another person a last chance at survival. What can be more meaningful than having the opportunity to truly save another person’s life?

Marrow transplants tend to be the last best chance at survival for many patients with life-threatening diseases, by and large cancer patients. Leukemia patients account for 75 percent of transplant recipients. When patients need marrow transplants, they first turn to their immediate families for a marrow match and around 30 percent of the time they find matches there. The remaining 70 percent of patients in need turn to the National Marrow Registry. On any given day, 3,000 people are searching the Registry for a marrow match. A tragically sad truth is that a significant number of these patients in desperate need do not find a marrow match simply because there are not enough people in the Registry.

My personal contact with marrow transplants begins as a counselor at the Ronald McDonald Camp for Children with Cancer for the final week of the past few summers. This past summer I was assigned to be a one-on-one counselor to an eight-year-old child who had had a bone marrow transplant four years ago. It was an incredible and inspiring experience; please ask me about it sometime. The issue of marrow transplants is actually a lot closer to Williams than many may be aware. The Run For a Cure this Sunday is in memory of Matt Stauffer ’96, a loved Williams student who passed away despite having had a bone marrow transplant for leukemia. He found a marrow match in his immediate family (his sister Emily), but most do not. Among those who are forced to turn to the Registry many still do not find a match. There simply are not enough people in the Registry.

Among the many impediments to the Registry’s needed expansion has been the high cost of testing and the fear resulting