Saving a life may be just a swab away for Alpena residents as Alpena Community College student nurses host a bone marrow donor registry drive on Oct. 4. The drive will be held on ACC's campus in the Besser Technical Center, Room 109, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
ACC nursing students have partnered with Genny's Hope Foundation and DKMS Americas to help bring hope to every individual waiting for a bone marrow transplant. According to DKMS Americas, currently six out of 10 patients never receive the transplant they need.
The inspiration for the project came from Alpena resident Amy Stepaniak. Her son, Josh Stepaniak had personally experienced the dire need for bone marrow donors when his girlfriend, Genny Johnson, a Colorado native, was diagnosed with a rare chronic leukemia called myleofibrosis in April 2011. The only cure for her was a bone marrow/stem cell transplant, which she received on Jan. 19, 2012 after waiting eight months for a donor.
Josh Stepaniak, along with girlfriend, Genny Johnson, were the inspiration for an Oct. 4 bone marrow donor drive that will take place on the campus of Alpena Community College.
According to Amy Stepaniak, "Genny is living proof that the bone marrow registry is a life saver and it's our goal to add 100 more donors to the registry with the drive at the college. We're honored that ACC's nursing students are willing to assist us with this life-saving project."
Genny's Hope Foundation, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, was started by Ann Haehn, Genny's mother so that others would not feel the anguish experienced by those who are waiting to find a match. Haehn said, "With more enrollments, we increase the chances for all our loved ones to find that match and reclaim their lives."
Participants must be between the ages of 18 and 55, be in good general health and weigh more than 110 pounds. There are no invasive medical procedures for testing. All that is required to join the bone marrow registry is a small sample of DNA (cheek cells), which is collected by swabbing the inside of a donor's cheek.
Donors must meet the medical eligibility guidelines which can be found at www.dkmsamericas.org.
It is estimated that approximately 10,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with diseases such as leukemia and lymphoma for which a bone marrow transplant is their best hope for a cure. A common misconception is that bone marrow donors are most often located within a patient's own family. However, this is not the case. About 70 percent of the time family members are not a match.
As a donor your tissue type, as well as an identification number for DKMS, is stored anonymously on the Be The Match registry until your 61st birthday. There are approximately 15 million donors in the bone marrow registries, which is searched by doctors trying to find matches for their patients.
When a match is found the registry contacts the donor and conducts additional testing to make sure the donor is the right match. If selected for a bone marrow transplant, the donor does not have to pay for any medical expenses. Approximately 73 percent of the time, a donor only needs to give blood to save a life. In the cases where bone marrow is needed, the donor will have to go to the hospital for an outpatient procedure where the marrow is extracted from the hip.
It costs DKMS $65 to register one potential bone marrow donor. Because DKMS does not require new donors to pay their registration costs and does not receive funding from the government, it depends solely on financial contributions from corporations, private foundations and individuals to support their lifesaving work.
Financial contributions will also be accepted during the drive. For additional information, call Amy Stepaniak at 356-1010 or 595-2359, or visit Genny's Hope Foundation web-site at www.gennyhope.org.