BY RYAN GOODYEAR
Fourteen people signed up to be potential stem cell donors at a clinic held at Conestoga College March 19, giving others a second chance at life.
According to onematch.ca, stem cells can be taken from either blood or bone marrow, and donated to sick patients, treating a myriad of potentially life-threatening diseases.
Ryan Connell, Student Life programmer, invited, Canadian Blood Services OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network, along with its co-ordinator Sharr Cairns, onto the campus to register potential new stem cell donors.
Stem cells can help people suffering from over 30 diseases including leukemia, lymphoma and blood immune disorders.
Holding a clinic at the college was advantageous because Onematch is on a mission to find donors between the ages of 17 and 35.
“There is a special need to register 17- to 35-year-olds to the OneMatch registry,” Cairns said. “ As such, OneMatch is focused on campaigns at high schools, colleges and universities, To better serve our patients, OneMatch is also hoping to register more males from diverse cultures including the aboriginal and black communities. Our registry is currently made up of 75 per cent Caucasians, yet this does not reflect the face of Canada.”
Stem cells can be donated in two methods, by withdrawing blood or bone marrow. According to the OneMatch website, www.onematch.ca, the blood method is performed after the donor has undergone at least four days of granulocyte colony stimulating factor injections. The injections help increase the number of stem cells found in the blood. After the donor is connected to a machine, blood is drawn from the body over a period of a couple of hours. It then passes through a centrifuge where stem cells are collected and the blood, along with the rest of the components, is transferred back to the donor.
Bone marrow donation is achieved by the donor receiving general or regional anesthetic and a needle being inserted into the hip bone where a maximum of 1,500 millilitres is withdrawn. The donor can expect to experience mild back pain for a few days after. Bone marrow takes roughly three weeks to replenish itself, according to Cairns.
She said that after stem cells have been collected, they can be used to essentially give a sick person a fighting chance against their disease.
“For the patient, transplanting stem cells from a healthy donor is similar to replacing their immune system so their body will be able to fight off infection,” she said. “Many patients consider their stem cell transplant day their ‘second birthday’ since they literally have a second chance at life.”
In 2011/2012, over 230 stem cell collections were completed in Canada. OneMatch hopes to continue the momentum in 2013. However, it’s very difficult to find a match for every patient. OneMatch statistics show that the average registered donor waits an average of seven years before receiving a call to donate. Nevertheless, this is not always the case. According to Cairns, some have received calls shortly after registering while others have never received a call.
Those who registered should get a letter in the mail from OneMatch in about four to six weeks, confirming their registration. After that, all a potential donor can do is wait.