The Gift of Life Club at IU will be hosting their second Swab Week, their first Swab Week as an official IU club, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from April 10-14. There will be tables throughout campus to recruit people to join the registry to become donors for blood stem cells or bone marrow transplants.
The Gift of Life Club at IU is a part of the Gift of Life Marrow Registry, a nonprofit organization based in the U.S. that facilitates blood stem cell and bone marrow transplants around the world for patients with blood cancers.
IU freshman and the vice president of the Gift of Life Club at IU Tommy Hartman said this semester’s Swab Week is themed “Save 500,” because of the Little 500 being a week later.
At the tables, individuals will be able to swab their own cheek to join the registry, learn about what it means to be on the registry and spin the prize wheel to win “Save 500” themed merchandise like a t-shirt, Hartman said.
The cheek swab collects tissues and cells that the registry uses to find a possible donor match, he said. The registry typically looks for donors who are between the ages of 18 to 35 because they are more likely to be able to be healthy enough to donate.
“It takes five minutes of your time, it’s super easy to do. It’s a super low chance that you actually match with anyone, but that tiny little chance is too great to put up, and you can save someone’s life,” Hartman said.
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Those who swab will also have to take an online health questionnaire, Jordan Ledyard, Gift of Life Marrow Registry recruitment specialist said. Once someone matches with a recipient, the individual will get a blood test and a physical exam done before the donation to ensure the donor’s health and safety.
Last semester, IU student ambassadors and volunteers for the Gift of Life Marrow Registry were able to complete their goal of getting 1,000 swabs, Ledyard said. This Swab Week, the goal is to get 4,000 swabs.
Ledyard said the donation process is voluntary and the Gift of Life Marrow Registry handles the donation process from recruiting donors to getting their stem cells or bone marrow to the transplant centers.
“It’s really important that people are able to be educated about being on the registry,” Ledyard said. “I think a lot of people don’t really know that it exists and that they actually have an opportunity to make such a big difference doing such a small thing.”
“The more people we recruit, the more opportunity there is for recipients to find their miracle match,” Ledyard said
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IU junior and President of the Gift of Life Club at IU Jane Georgas said the diversity that IU has helps patients find their matches.
75% of patients do not find their donor match within their family and use registries like the Gift of Life Marrow Registry to find a donor, Georgas said.
“There’s a lot of people with different forms of blood cancers and other blood diseases, and they need stem cell transplants to be cured,” she said.
The last Swab Week resulted in 10 donor matches, Georgas said. It was the registry’s third largest swab drive in the country.
Georgas said she is looking forward to informing more people about the Gift of Life Marrow Registry and give individuals an opportunity to join.
Locations of the tables will vary each day and will be posted on their Instagram page. Those who are interested in volunteering at the tables can use this link to sign up.