SANDPOINT — In some cases, saving a person’s life can start with an action as simple as a cheek swab.
That’s all that is required at an upcoming bone marrow drive, scheduled for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 15 at Sandpoint High School. The event will add participants to the bone marrow registry managed by nonprofit DKMS America. Individuals should be between the ages of 18 and 55 and be in good general health.
The issue is a personal one for Ray and Jennifer Pollard, who are helping to organize the event. Jennifer Pollard suffers from an extremely rare condition known as MonoMAC, a genetic disorder that weakens her immune system and leaves her with a host a medical issues. A bone marrow transplant could be key to her future health.
“This is a vital service,” Ray Pollard said. “Jennifer has not yet found a donor, but it’s about more than that.”
Adding information to the registry is a service to everyone who will need a transplant at some point. Currently, only four out of every 10 individuals requiring a transplant manage to receive one in time. That’s because finding an appropriate match is extremely difficult. For a marrow transplant to be effective, the donor and recipient must be a nine out of 10 or better match based on thousands of differing tissue characteristics, which add up to millions of different combinations. DKMS America’s computers conduct extensive database searches to find appropriate matches, and that takes a lot of time.
Naturally, more individuals in the database increase the number of matches. According to DKMS America’s statistics, 541 additions to the registry helps one individual in need find his or her match.
Because of the urgency that comes with a marrow transplant, individuals are making a commitment with their inclusion in the registry. The initial effort is as simple as can be: all it requires is a cheek swab. But those on the registry must be ready to answer the need for anyone who may require a transplant. It’s impossible to determine who you could match — if anyone — so participants must take their commitment seriously.
“The inconvenience of a few hours in a chair is nothing to saving someone’s life,” Pollard said.
In addition to volunteers on the register, event organizers also need volunteers to help manage the proceedings. Those able to contribute should contact Lei Edstrom at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-5447.
Finally, those who can’t make the event but wish to add their information onto the registry can visit www.getswabbed.org for information on a self-application kit. Regardless of how one gets involved, DKMS America covers the $65 cost per participant, so individuals can also visit the website to donate. All donations go to covering the cost of adding individuals to the registry.