Each year, thousands of people need bone marrow transplants — a procedure which may be their only chance for survival. Although some patients with leukemia or other cancers have a genetically matched family member who can donate, about 70 percent do not. These patients' lives depend on finding an unrelated individual with a compatible human leukocyte antigen profile, often within their own ethnic group, who is willing to donate stem cells to them. A transplant is usually a patients’ last option, and finding a compatible donor can literally be the difference between life and death.
On October 28th 2015, Students Affecting Change hosted a bone marrow registration drive on the University of Washington Bothell Campus. This is something that would not have been possible if not for the vision and dedication of one particular UW Bothell student, Doug Woods. Doug, a former firefighter and current pre-medical student, came up with the idea for the drive in April and worked for six months to coordinate the event. He was motivated by the profound impact bone marrow transplants can have on the lives of others, and he was determined to do what he could to help. Doug planned the drive, scheduled training sessions, and led a team on the day of the drive.
Many Students Affecting Change members also assisted in the planning and coordination of the drive. Ashley Mackinen was instrumental in clearing the many logistical hurdles needed to bring the drive to campus, as well as securing the necessary permissions, spaces, and equipment needed for both the training and the drive. Erica Qiao assisted Doug to help get the word about the drive and to recruit volunteers.
Additionally, Muna Abushehada, Richard Chear, Charlie England, Seth Farb, Maryonnia Hanson, Tate Higgins, Saurav Kumar, Mengkhy Lay, Kathleen Luu, Van Nguyen, and Travis Ouelette all donated their time to the drive: teaching other students about the science and importance of bone marrow donation, assisting registrants with the necessary paperwork, collecting cheek swabs, and answering questions. This was a total team effort, with each member working together to ensure the drive's success.
As a result of all of the volunteers' hard work and dedication, the event was an overwhelming success. 68 people signed up to become donors, including many from racial and ethnic heritages that are severely underrepresented in the bone marrow registry. The drive greatly exceeded all expectations, and the line of interested donors pushed well past the expected stop time. These results are a testament to all of the hard work put in by each student volunteer, who truly represented what it means to compassionately and selflessly serve. Considering that each potential donor will stay on the registry until they are 61 years old, what these student volunteers and donors were able to accomplish will continue make a difference for the next 40 years.
Author: Justin Thompson with contributions from Doug Woods