Get swabbed, save lives at stem cell drive
Credit: PROVIDED BY CHRIS VAN DOORN
Twenty-one-year-old Jocelyn McGlynn desperately needs a matching stem cell donor to help treat leukemia.
McGlynn was diagnosed with Acute Meyeloid Leukemia on Nov. 30, shortly after she wrote her Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) in the hopes of entering medical school. The blood disease can be treated with stem cell transplantation, but neither of her brothers are eligible donors. McGlynn and her family searched for a match until finding one on Feb.7, thanks to numerous blood donor and swab clinics held in Catham, London and Windosor.
“She could likely be one of our Fanshawe students,” Fanshawe’s CCPR program co-ordinator, Jackie Westelaken, said. “The story really resonated with me, and I thought that we should do something to recognize the struggle she’s going through.”
Westelaken’s CCPR students will be creating an awareness campaign for over a thousand Canadians need for a donor. Finding a donor is difficult, as it requires six matching markers from a cheek swab, and four more from a blood test, leading to a 10 out of 10 match.
Donors match with others from the same ethnic background. They must be between 17 to 35 years old, in good general health, and have valid provincial healthcare coverage.
“There are 1400 people across Canada who are looking for a stem cell match right now, and it’s possible that one of those could find their match here,” Westelaken said.
Participants will fill out required information, then have their cheeks swabbed. Their cells will be added to an international registry and cross-referenced with those in need of transplants. International students cannot participate as their private insurance will not pay for the donation, but they are able to sign up in their home country’s registry.
According to Chris van Doorn of Canadian Blood Services, participants who do match with a patient are probably the only one in the world to do so.
“It’s great when we get a group from [Fanshawe] to help us out,” van Doorn said. “Without that support we wouldn’t be able to run drives. The public relations students can be great because we need to educate people when we come by, and I’m sure they won’t be shy at talking.”
Van Doorn said he has set a target of adding at least 50 people to the registry.
“It’s a good opportunity for students to get involved and to maybe save somebody’s life one day,” he said.
The CCPR students are also working to dispel any myths about stem cell donation. Westelaken said the process is relatively painless, there is no volume blood loss, and that even donating blood can help people who are going through cancer treatment.
“We’re about students and we’re about community,” she said.
The stem cell drive takes place on Feb. 25 in F hallway, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. To learn more about stem cell donation, go to blood.ca.