It was a shot of hope and a sense of community as a bone marrow donor registry drive by Be the Match was nestled on a small section of the quad on Monday.
Be the Match, a bone marrow registry operated by the National Marrow Donor Program and housed out of City of Hope Hospital, specialize in helping patients with life threatening blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma, find donors for a bone marrow or cord blood transplant for a chance of being cured.
The registry drive was hosted to aid in finding a match for Sherri Price, the wife of Rhett Price, Fullerton’s head aquatics coach and other patients diagnosed with similar diseases.
Sherri was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia and is no longer responding to chemo or radiation and her only chance in beating the disease is through a bone marrow transplant according to Joyce Valdez, Be the Match community outreach specialist and City of Hope Hospital employee.
Valdez added that the Price’s turned to Be the Match after no one in their family was a match to Sherri. Out of the 11 million donors registered in Be the Match database there was still no match for Sherri, an unfortunate statistic for most patients and what prompted the drive on campus.
“1 in 540 people have the possibility of being a donor and match to a patient,” Valdez said. “ For patients like Sherri it is a needle in a haystack, but it’s a numbers game and the more people we add to the list, the better the chances we will find a match for patients like her.”
The cool weather aided to the process of registering as students, faculty, athletes and even, according to Rhett, Fullerton Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva stopped by to show their support to the Price’s and register as donors.
Community and support was the driving factor for volunteers and most who registered to be a donor. Amongst the support and volunteers was Jesse Luchansky the assistant men’s water polo coach.
“Rhett told us what he was planning on doing for his wife and we decided to come out to help with the booth and register ourselves,” Luchansky said. “Seems to pretty strong involvement from students and faculty getting the message out; we’re praying we could find somebody.”
The process of registering was simple according to Valdez and Raquel Amezquita, community outreach specialist for Be the Match.
Participants had to look at the guidelines to see if they qualify, fill out a consent form to make sure they are eligible to register and then a 10 second cotton swab cheek wipe test.
The cotton swab test is similar to a DNA test but its purpose is to find the tissue type, which consists of millions of chromosomes and find a match in the registry’s database according to Amezquita.
“When the test gets compared to our computer database it’s almost like matching lotto numbers because there’s millions of combinations which makes it so difficult to find a match.”
The behind the scenes of the test could be considered very scientific and slightly confusing to most people but the motive of doing the test was a simple decision for many like Larissa Terrones a student and psychology major.
“My basketball teacher Roger See, told me about the event and how Rhett’s wife needed a transplant so I decided to help and see if I am a match,” Terrones said. “I’ve had family that had cancer, so this is pretty close to me.”
The target goal for donors registered was 500; the total received at the end of the day was 450 according to Valdez.
“This registry benefits everybody,” Rhett said. “These people can save one life or more.”
For more information on how to register to be a donor visit: join.marrow.org/hope4sheri
Nicole King contributed to this story.