Be The Match at U.Va. hosts bone marrow drive

Organizer says college students are the 'key to successful transplants'

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Students that choose to participate in the drive are asked to swab their cheeks, and the information contained in the swab is sent to Be The Match’s marrow registry.

Sarah Lindamood | Cavalier Daily

Students involved with Be The Match at U.Va. held a bone marrow drive Thursday in honor of third-year Nursing student and group president Jayla Kemp’s late boyfriend, D’Marco Jackson. Thursday's event marked the second time the organization held the drive in Jackson’s name.

“D’Marco Jackson … passed away in April of 2016 due to complications with a bone marrow transplant,” Kemp said. “He had severe aplastic anemia, had a transplant and it failed. We have the same birthday, Oct. 7, 1996, so this is in honor of our birthday.”

Be The Match is a nationwide organization that has facilitated over 80,000 marrow and cord blood transplants with nearly 6,200 transplants a year. 

Students that choose to participate in the drive are asked to swab their cheeks. The information contained in the swab is sent to Be The Match’s “largest and most diverse marrow registry in the world,” in the hopes of identifying a match for a transplant. 

If a match is found, doctors use needles to withdraw the bone marrow from both sides of the back of the donor’s pelvic bone. The procedure takes place under anesthesia and is painless. After donation, the liquid marrow is transported to the patient’s location for transplant, according to the Be The Match website.

“This is our first drive of the year but we will have multiple others,” Kemp said. “A student reached out to me whose mother is having a transplant so we will have another probably in November. We also go to local events like Relay for Life and 5Ks to get awareness for the registry.”

Be The Match regional representative Dan Gariepy said the drive on Grounds has seen huge success in recent years. 

“We’ve identified 10 or 12 people who have gone on to donate,” Gariepy said. “It’s a pretty amazing thing.”

The University is not the only college that matches bone marrow donors to patients. Gariepy and Kemp said a drive was held simultaneously on Thursday at Old Dominion University, and drives are also organized at Virginia Tech and Virginia Commonwealth University.

“Young adults are sort of our key demographic, about 18-30 is the prime age that transplant doctors at U.Va. Medical Center and doctors across the country like for donors because they are generally healthier, more available and have cells that do better in transplants,” Gariepy said. “College students are really the key to successful transplants and the success of Be The Match.”

Kemp said she enjoys the drives because they allow her to reach out to fellow students for help, especially considering the fact that blood cancers are among the top cancer diagnoses in people under the age of 20. 

Both Kemp and Gariepy were pleased with the awareness the drive brought to blood cancer, bone marrow transplantation and how it honored Jackson's life. 

“This is going on all over the place, so it’s a pretty big, awesome movement that D’Marco still is doing,” Gariepy said.

Kemp smiled, adding, “It’s his legacy.”

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