by Beth Newman, Parish Associate
Judy Beck was preparing to send her 14 year-old son off on trip with some friends when she noticed a small infection on his finger. “I though we’d just run by the doctor’s office real quick to get it checked out before he left,” she said. That doctor’s visit revealed a much more serious problem. “Duncan’s initial diagnosis was aplastic anemia, which could be treated with a drug therapy.” Two months and many tests later, the initial diagnosis was modified. Duncan had myelodysplastic syndrome, and the only thing that would cure him was a bone marrow donation.
Scotty Utz was a student at Princeton Seminary when one day he walked by a table displaying information on how to become a bone marrow donor. “That’s something I can do,” he thought to himself, and so he took ten minutes to give a blood sample that would type part of his DNA, and he put his name on the registry. Never did he dream that twelve years (and numerous moves) later he would get a phone call from the National Marrow Donor Program, asking him if he was still willing to be a donor. There was a male patient with leukemia for whom he was a genetic match.
Both Judy’s and Scotty’s stories speak to the real need for willing and educated bone marrow donors. Project Life is a campus-based, grassroots movement dedicated to saving lives and to curing cancer and other diseases by identifying and registering volunteers for marrow and tissue donation. For over thirty years, one of the best kept secrets in providing cures for cancers like leukemia and lymphoma, and for diseases like sickle cell anemia, has been bone marrow donation and transplantation. In 1987, a federal mandate created the National Marrow Donor Program. The program had a simple, audacious goal: connecting volunteer donors with patients whose only chance for a cure was a bone marrow transplant.
This spring, students at Warren Wilson have the opportunity to join with other students from UNCA, Elon, Wingate, Queens, UNC-Charlotte, Central Piedmont Community College, Livingstone, and Johnson C. Smith and participate in a drive to recruit volunteers to be on the National Marrow Donor Program. To sign up for the registry is easy; a simple mouth swab is taken and sent off for baseline genetic testing. Your name is then added to the registry. Those in need of transplants then go to the registry to determine if there is a match. The more willing donors that are added to the registry, the better the odds are for those in need of a life-saving transplant.
Wednesday, December 7th, at 5:30 in the Upper Fellowship Hall, Scotty Utz and Judy Beck will be present at a dinner hosted by the Warren Wilson chapter of Project Life and by the Warren Wilson Presbyterian Church and College Chapel. They will tell their stories, and more information will be provided about the registry and the need for donors. All are invited, and dinner is free. Please come hear more information about this new and important opportunity at Warren Wilson and about how you can save a life.