Be the Match registry helps find donors to help those with cancer

Brittnee Barry, News Contributor

T1st Place OSU Club/Organization

Be The Match Oregon State University was created by students with a passion to help the fight against blood cancer. They do this by holding events, registering potential donors and spreading the word across campus in an attempt to get others equally as passionate about the cause. But, OSU is not the only campus participating. Be the Match has registry locations on several campuses.

“Over the past 25 years Be the Match has reportedly operated by the National Marrow Donor Program and has managed the largest and most diverse marrow registry in the world, ” according to Be the Match’s website.

President Chase Fettig credits the origins of the club at OSU to Blair Fettig, who introduced Be the Match to OSU when his older brother Matt was diagnosed with leukemia in 2013.

“Over the several months that Matt was fighting leukemia, Blair and Jesse McGinty, a devoted friend with bone marrow registry experience, along with other friends and family, scrambled to register hundreds of students at Oregon State. Amazingly, Matt was saved by a bone marrow transplant that he received from Eric Fettig, the eldest brother of the three.” Chase said in an email. “This experience injected passion into students at Oregon State University, leading to the establishment of Be the Match at Oregon State, whose club members carry a relentless tenacity to save lives through bone marrow transplants and PBSC (peripheral blood stem cell) donations.”

The student organization utilizes OSU’s community and student population in turn to hold multiple events to get matches for the program. The process for registering for the national bone marrow industry itself is fairly simple, according to Chase.

“(It takes) less than 15 minutes. To be eligible to register and donate bone marrow and peripheral stem cells, you must be between the ages of 18-44, and be in good health,” Chase said in an email. “After filling out a consent form that requires basic personal and contact information, simply swab the four corners of your mouth using the provided cotton swabs and you will be active as a potential donor within the registry until you are 61 years old.”

The chance an individual will get matched is actually quite small.

“About 1 in 430 U.S. registry donors actually go on to donate bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cell to a patient.” Chase said in an email. “One of the many reasons that our club strives relentlessly to recruit as many potential donors as possible. When one is selected as a match, it’s about an 80% chance that they will donate PBSC, and only 15% of the time will the donor actually donate bone marrow.”

“Being selected as a potential donor to a patient need is an incredibly rare and significant occurrence,” Chase added. “Be the Match recognizes that this commitment can deter some to actually follow through and donate.”

An individual who donates bone marrow will be put under anesthetics during the actual process and then could be able to go home later that day. According to OSU’s Be the Match Facebook, recovery can take 3-7 days. The stem cell procedure consists of having blood drawn from an arm into a centrifuge machine that separates out the Stem Cells and returns the blood back into the opposite arm. That process takes around five hours, so they recommend bringing a good book to pass the time. This is according to club member, Austin Fahey and the OSU Be the Match Facebook page.

Fahey got his cheek swabbed January of last year, and in June he found out that he was matched with a 47-year-old man. He had first hand experience with the process when he began donating in September. He specifically was chosen for a Stem Cell donation and had to go through a short series of shots over a span of days before his blood went through the centrifuge machine.

“Honestly the worst part of it is that you can’t go to the bathroom for that time,” Fahey said. “So a lot of people think it really hurts and it really didn’t. They have to read you off the side effects before you (donate) but the worst one I had is a very mild headache for a day or two.”

Those like Fahey will say that donating is definitely worth doing, in spite of the commitment requirements.

“If you think about what I went through compared to you know, on the other hand somebody who’s fighting through cancer for forever. It is a very small price to pay and very little time and effort,” Fahey said. “It feels really good to know you’re a small part of someone’s battle against cancer and any risks you think there are, are very limited and probably nonexistent.”

The donation process through Be the Match tries its best to be as convenient to the donor as possible.

“The non profit organization does a tremendous job of working with matched donors to accommodate for the one to two week inconvenience by paying for travel, hospitality, and support companion expenses, along with many other resources to ensure that their experience giving the gift of life is as convenient and comfortable as possible,” Chase said in an email.

Fahey did all his shots at the student health center on campus and then had accommodations offered to him further when it came time to donate.

“I actually donated up in Portland, but since they knew I was on campus they worked it out to where I just had to show up to the student health center and if I had been farther out they would’ve, basically sent someone to my house, work or whatever (was) convenient,” Fahey said.

Like Fahey’s story, when there is a match it makes all the hard work and fundraising worth it for student volunteers, where those who donate are called “heroes” on their community Facebook page.

OSU’s Be the Match club vice president Lizz Duhn also has history with the Be The Match program.

“I was diagnosed with a GATA-2 gene mutation August of 2013, (it) essentially meant my bone marrow was failing and I couldn’t make my own blood,” Duhn said. “At the time the GATA-2 gene mutation was a new finding making my case the 7th one on the west coast. I was lucky to have a little sister that was a perfect match, who served as my donor at just 12 years old. I was treated at Seattle Children’s Hospital where I received my transplant January of 2014.”

The averages of people in need of donations, like Duhn is higher than those who have received.

“10,000 patients are in need of a life saving transplant every year and less than 4,000 of those patients ever get the chance to receive one,” according to OSU’s Be the Match Facebook page.

Diversity also factors into the Be the Match program at OSU.

“Patients with diverse tissue types and ethnic ancestry are less likely to find a marrow match compared to Caucasian patients,” the OSU Be the Match Facebook page states. “72% of the registry is Caucasian. If you are a minority with blood cancer your chances of survival through a transplant are slim. Every other race makes up 10% or less of the registry.”

OSU’s Be the Match’s mission combines student influence to a greater cause.

“(The goal is to) help them find innovative ways to educate our campuses, recruit committed donors and raise funds for patients.” OSU’s Be the Match website states. “Perspective and influence are vital to raising awareness about our cause and the saving of patient lives.”

Members of the club find their experiences in it “rewarding” and insightful.

“It is not often that volunteer work can have such a direct, quantifiable positive result,” Chase said in an email. “Our club members of Be the Match at Oregon State are driven through our common understanding of how lucky we are to live healthy lives, and we have seen how severely blood cancer can impact lives across every family and community.”

Other Students of OSU are urged to join and find out more information about the club.

“We are dedicated to save the lives of those fighting for survival because it’s our duty as young adults to do what needs to be done. We urge all individuals not to wait until they’re impacted directly by blood cancer to help save a life, but to recognize that a cure to blood cancers exists, and it’s up to us to make sure that such tremendous opportunity isn’t squandered,” Chase said in an email.

If students want to get involved, they are encouraged to register and volunteer.

“Be the Match On Campus is a program that gives students the chance to help save lives across the globe. Students can get involved with Be the Match at OSU by joining our recognized student organization and registering to donate bone marrow or peripheral stem cells,” Chase said in an email.

The club itself meets every week so they may plan out future registry events that will take place on campus, plan market fundraising opportunities, and expand as a group while also developing the leadership skills of individual members.

Additional information and resources about how to get involved with the club or what future events are happening can be found on OSU’s Be the Match Facebook page. Or, individuals can email their club president Chase Fettig at [email protected]. Their booth can also sometimes be found on campus by the Student Experience Center or the Memorial Union Building.

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