Imagine being able to save someone’s life just by donating bone marrow. According to the Be The Match website, every year over 12,000 patients in the United States are diagnosed with life-threatening diseases for which a marrow transplant from an unrelated donor may be their best or only hope for a cure. Students at the University of Nebraska at Omaha are working to make a difference in those patient’s lives by partnering with the Be The Match organization.
“Be The Match is an international bone marrow donor registry,” UNO Be The Match Secretary Basma Basma said. “It matches people on the registry to people in need of bone marrow, that includes people with leukemia, lymphoma, etc. Bone marrow donation is typically the last resort to try to cure someone with blood cancers.”
Having the opportunity to save a life is what inspired UNO Be The Match Co-president and Co-founder Matt Ormer to create the organization here on campus.
“It took me no time at all to decide to join the registry, because it’s not every day you get a chance to save someone’s life,” Ormer said.
After helping to host a Be The Match event with a group of University of Nebraska Medical Center students, Ormer and friends decided to create a new chapter of the organization at UNO.
“A few of our involved students helped host an event at which a bone marrow donor, a transplant recipient, and a physician participated in a panel discussion regarding donating bone marrow,” Ormer said. “It just made sense that we expanded this deserving cause to UNO’s campus.”
Basma said she was approached by Ormer to bring the organization to UNO’s campus.
“As a future physician, I will come across many patients who suffer from blood cancers and I like knowing that there is a registry out there that is doing everything it can to help these patients find bone marrow matches,” Basma said.
The organization has been off to a great start. “In our first semester, we added 125 potential life savers onto the bone marrow donor registry, and towards the end of last semester we raised nearly $1,400 for Be The Match’s national effort,” Ormer said.
Ormer said that it is pretty rare for a donor to actually donate marrow, as only 1 out of 540 registered donors are ever contacted.
“Unfortunately, every 10 minutes someone in America dies from a blood cancer, so we in Be The Match try to do everything we can to maximize the number of people on a bone marrow donor registry,” Ormer said.
Even with the unlikely odds of being contacted, there is still the chance you could make a difference in a patient’s life.
“Two of our chapter members have been contacted by Be The Match to let them know that they may be interested in doing some additional testing to see if they are a close match to two patients,” Ormer said.
The organization’s main projects have been setting up bone marrow registration drives.
“Signing up to be a bone marrow donor is a very easy process,” Ormer said. “After you have talked with one of our repre-sentatives about any of your questions or concerns, you fill out a brief consent form and then swab your cheeks with four cotton swabs. That’s all it takes to commit to saving a life.”
The organization has future fundraising events planned for spring including more bone marrow drives and a finals week care package that parents can send to their student. Ormer said the proceeds will be used to advance critical blood research through Be The Match.
Students can see the time and location of future bone marrow drives on the UNO Be The Match Facebook page.