The Rotary Club of Scott Valley recently obtained a grant to conduct Be the Match bone marrow registry drives. On April 15, they were at College of the Siskiyous, where 93 people signed up to be included on the registry.

At any given time, 6,000 people are searching the Be The Match bone marrow registry for a donor to help them survive leukemia or other life-threatening diseases. At this time, fewer than 4 of 10 patients are able to receive the transplant they need.

In hopes of changing these  statistics, the Rotary Club of Scott Valley recently obtained a grant to conduct Be the Match bone marrow registry drives. On April 15, they were at College of the Siskiyous.

Ninety-three people signed up during the four hours they were there, said Magda Silva, a recruitment officer for the National Marrow Donor Program who was in charge of the drive.

Les Courtemanche, a member of the COS staff, was one of those who filled out the paperwork and had the inside of their cheek swabbed to join the registry.

“I think it’s for a great cause,” Courtemanche said. Though he doesn’t know anyone who has ever been in need of a bone marrow transplant, he said if he’s ever called as a match, he’d be more than willing to donate.

COS student body president Phyllicia Mitchell was also in the process of becoming a registered donor. The major factor that convinced her to swab her cheek is the fact that there are so few African Americans currently in the registry.

Of the seven million people listed in the Be the Match registry, only eight percent of them are African American.

Statistics show that the chances are one million to one that a patient in need will find a match, and because tissue types are inherited, patients are most likely to match someone of their own race or ethnicity. However, 70 percent of patients don’t have a match in their family and depend on people in the registry.

“There are less than one million African Americans registered,” Mitchell said, “so I figured one more couldn’t hurt.”

American Indians, Alaska Natives, Asians, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, Latinos and those of multiple races are also especially needed in the registry.

Diane Pomeroy of the Scott Valley Rotary said she became involved with the bone marrow registry 15 years ago, when her friend’s son, who was a sophomore in college at the time, was diagnosed with leukemia and needed a bone marrow transplant.

“He found a donor, and he’s now married and has children,” she said. Eight of the people she registered 15 years ago have been called to donate, she added.

Though generally it costs $100 to join the registry, the Scott Valley Rotary received a grant to hold registry drives, which covers this cost for new members.

Once a person is registered,  they will be included on a list of potential donors, though it isn’t guaranteed that they’ll ever be called as a match.

If you are identified as a match, you do have the right to change your mind, though it could cause medical setbacks for the patient. Therefore, a person should consider carefully before joining the registry.

Donors must be between the ages of 18 and 60, be willing to consider helping any patient in need and meet health guidelines.

There are two methods of donation: peripheral blood stem cells and bone marrow, according to the Be the Match website.

PBSC donation is a nonsurgical procedure that takes place at a blood center or outpatient hospital unit. For five days leading up to donation, you will be given injections of a drug called filgrastim to increase the number of blood-forming cells in your bloodstream. Your blood is then removed through a needle in one arm and passed through a machine that separates out the blood-forming cells. The remaining blood is returned to you through the other arm. Your blood-forming cells are back to their normal levels within four to six weeks.

PBSC donors can expect to experience a headache, bone or muscle aches for several days before collection, a side effect of the filgrastim injections. These effects disappear shortly after collection. Most PBSC donors report that they feel completely recovered within two weeks of donation.

Marrow donation is a surgical outpatient procedure that takes place at a hospital. You will receive anesthesia and feel no pain during the donation. Doctors use a needle to withdraw liquid marrow from the back of your pelvic bone. The marrow replaces itself completely within four to six weeks.

Marrow donors can expect to feel some soreness in their lower back for a few days or longer following the donation. Most marrow donors report that they feel completely recovered within three weeks of donation.

For more information about the Be the Match registry, visit www.marrow.org.