Five minutes to save a life

Students at Wilfrid Laurier University joined others at universities nationwide and were swabbed for blood stem cells this week. “Get Swabbed” is an effort dedicated to adding students who are potential bone marrow and stem cell donors to the OneMatch national stem cell database. The database helps patients in need of stem cell bone marrow transplants to find unrelated donors.

OneMatch focuses on finding young registrants for the database and holds events on university campuses accordingly. “[Students] can be in the database longer and they’re also healthier,” event co-ordinator Heidi Singer explained.

“They have a lot of energy … a lot of spirit, and it really hypes up the event.”
Age is very important for the OneMatch database because stem cells and marrow from young people are more likely to be healthy than that of an older donor.

“Significant research has shown that if the donors are younger, it gives the recipient a higher chance of survival,” said second-year student Jordan Epstein who also co-ordinated the event.

Last year, over 600 Laurier students were swabbed at the on-campus event.
This year, to drive even more students to participate, Get Swabbed has become an inter-university challenge. 15 universities are competing to see who can garner the most student involvement. Epstein thinks it will give students a competitive push. “Everyone wants to beat Western or one of those other schools,” he said.

Singer and Epstein want students to understand that the short process of getting swabbed can save the life of someone with leukemia.
“Only 30 per cent of people who need a bone marrow transplant get them from family members, so 70 per cent rely on organizations like OneMatch,” Singer said.

After the event on Tuesday in Laurier’s Concourse, Get Swabbed will be at the University of Waterloo as well as on Wednesday. Singer is excited for the day in part because of UW’s Asian population. “Unfortunately, 80 per cent of people in the OneMatch database are Caucasian,” Singer said. She explained that it is important for recipients to find donors from their respective ethnic groups, because some ethnic groups are more susceptible to certain ailments.

“We’re hoping we can build the ethnic database.”

Get Swabbed was hosted this year by Hillel Waterloo, Alpha Epsilon Pi, UW Residence Council, UW Pre-Med Club, Laurier University Charity Kouncil (LUCK) and the Laurier Health Sciences Students Association.