Olympic gold medalist partners with non-profit to promote donating bone marrow


ABILENE, Texas (KRBC) - Some might say it's like finding a needle in a hay stack.

That is the case for those looking to find a matching donor for bone marrow.

To bring awareness on the cause, a bone marrow drive was held today at Abilene Christian University, with the help of an Olympic gold medalist.

"We're focused on taking the message out, especially to universities, telling my story, my background, athletically and my background as far as bone marrow is concerned," Olympic Gold Medalist Earl Young said.

Earl Young is also an ACU graduate, has dedicated the last three years to bringing awareness to donating bone marrow.  Over the last three years, he has helped host more than 70 drives. He is hosting a two-day bone marrow donor registration drive on campus for both students and the community.

"Only 4 out of 10 find a match," Young said.

Young is a leukemia survivor, all thanks to a bone marrow transplant in 2010, from a woman in Germany.

"She was the only donor that matched me out of the 22 million on file, so I'm alive today because of Christine. So, we're trying to get other people to become donors and to save lives," Young said.

He has teamed up with DKMS, an international non-profit organization committed to eradicating blood cancers.

Amy Roseman is the donor recruitment coordinator for DKMS. She has been working with DKMS for six years and has brought the drive to ACU for the last three.

"So, the database is 69% Caucasian, which means for patients who are not Caucasian, they have a really hard time matching donors," Roseman said. "It's really important for all of us to do, but definitely those people who are of a diverse background or an ethnicity that is not well represented in the database."

Roseman said often times, the patients need a whole new system.

"These patients have leukemia or lymphoma or blood disorders like sickle cell anemia, aplastic anemia and other blood disorders and they need to find a donor for a second chance at life," Roseman said. "Most of the times, the patients need stem cells from the blood stream, so blood is taken from one arm, the stem cells are removed, and blood is returned to the donors other arm, while they're watching Netflix. So, they're awake."

If you match with a baby or a child under three, the actual marrow needs be taken from the back of the pelvic bone.

It's extracted as an out-patient procedure. It's done under anesthesia. Including recovering from the anesthesia, it takes about two hours," Roseman said.

Becoming a bone marrow donor gives a patient another chance at life. The process is simple. You simply register, get swabbed and then you wait for what could be about 4 decades.
Sophomore Mikaela Clinton registered to donate. She said it's something that hits close to home.

"My grandfather has had a few different kinds of cancers and I know that he had to get a bone marrow transplant at some point," Clinton said. "I think that if I have the opportunity to save someone's life, I think that is the least I can do to get swabbed and get in the database. It's such an honorable thing, so I think everyone should do it."

Grad student Kyle Karnei is the event organizer and has also donated.

He is doing this in honor of his 12-year-old friend Hudson Wade who died two years ago from leukemia.

"I got to be close with the Wades and I loved Hudson and his story and so, ever since then, I wanted to find help in any way that I could. So, this was a way to help with Earl and Earl's incredible story and also remembering Hudson throughout this drive," Karnei said.

In order to donate:

  1. You must be between the ages of 18 and 55 years old
  2. Living permanently in the U.S. and willing and able to travel
  3. In good health
  4. At least 4'10" and 105 pounds

If you missed it on Thursday, there will be another drive happening Friday at the McGlothin Campus Center from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Donating is completely free of charge. If you can't make it to the second day, you can also donate online by clicking here. You will receive a free mail-in swab kit.

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