10 minutes. 4 swabs.  1 life saved.

Santa would be proud of senior Eileen Smith and the 90 other Fairfield University students who joined the “Be the Match” bone marrow registry on Dec. 9. The inaugural drive took place in the lower level of the Barone Campus Center from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m.

“A lot of people randomly stopped to by to see what was going on in the BCC and ended up signing up after talking to us about it, which was really cool!” said Smith.

Smith set up the drive out of her desire to help her father’s best friend, who was diagnosed with leukemia nearly a year and a half ago. Everyone in her family joined the registry, but unfortunately none of them were a match. Feeling helpless, Eileen and her father were determined to spread the word.

Media Attention

Connecticut’s local News 12 team came to the bone marrow drive to interview Smith and Pattie Kolvaski, the drive coordinator from Boston’s Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Kolvaski’s daughter, Jill, is Smith’s roommate.

Smith and Kolvaski said they were pleased to see the news team there.

“The more the media gets involved with what we are promoting, the more the word will get out to others in the community,” they said.

The hopes of this drive are that at least one of the 90 students that volunteered will ultimately be a match for someone looking for a transplant.

Ben Heslin ’11 said, “I chose to sign up for the marrow registry after one of my good friends (Smith) explained to me why she had volunteered and decided to become so involved in organizing the registry here at Fairfield.”

The Sad Truth

Each day, newly diagnosed patients throughout the world, suffering from life-threatening diseases such as lymphoma, leukemia, and other blood-related diseases, search the registry for a lifesaving marrow match.

Unfortunately, only 30% of these people will find a match within their own family. Their best chance is matching a sibling. The other 70% rely on the “Be the Match Registry” to find their lifesaving donor. The need is great to make more people aware of this international registry.

Joining the Cause

Smith’s drive was to encourage students to join the “Be the Match Registry” and become part of every patient’s search for a donor. This is an easy process that simply entails taking mouth swabs for a saliva test and filling out some paperwork. The purpose of this drive was not to donate marrow, but to become a member of the Bone Marrow Registry.

Students said it was reassuring to see students exemplifying their Jesuit values, especially during this time of year.

“It’s my first time doing this. I became a member of the registry because cancer is such a difficult subject of medicine,” said Lauren Tehan ’12.  “Knowing that I have the ability to give someone a chance by going through such an easy process is worth doing, and if I can help them to keep fighting then that would mean a lot to me.”

For more information about how to become a member of the registry, visit marrow.org or call 1-800-MARROW-2.

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