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Get Swabbed: Save a Life

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Posted: Sunday, July 31, 2011 10:00 am | Updated: 1:10 pm, Fri Jul 25, 2014.

People who get swabbed to be a bone marrow donor could potentially save someone’s life.

A booth will be set up at the Washington Town and Country Fair Thursday through Saturday, Aug. 4-6, from 1 to 8 p.m. for people to sign up to be on the international bone marrow registry through DKMS Americas.

This is the second year the family of Todd Zick will have a booth at the Fair. Last year, nearly 800 people were registered.

“(Last year’s) drive was amazing,” said Annette Von Der Muehlen, DKMS donor recruiter. “We have already had one collection from last year’s drive. We call him a ‘local hero,’ because he saved someone’s life. This is the best outcome of registering donors.”

The Zick family has held more than 25 drives since 2007 and registered nearly 5,000 people.

DKMS has facilitated 26,000 transplants.

“It’s really, really hard to find a person’s genetic twin,” Von Der Muehlen said. “Sadly, six out of 10 patients never receive the life-saving transplant they need.”

Seventy percent of people who need a bone marrow transplant depend on a stranger for their second chance at life, she said.

Todd Zick, who grew up in St. Louis but has relatives in Washington, passed away last year after a four-year battle with Leukemia. He was diagnosed at age 21.

The Process

Signing up for the bone marrow registry is easy, but there are requirements potential donors must meet.

To become a bone marrow donor, registrants must be between the ages of 18-55, in good general health, weigh at least 100 pounds but not exceed a body mass index of 40 and be willing to donate to any patient in need.

The last requirement, said Von Der Muehlen, is among the most important.

Because people stay on the registry until their 61st birthday, they must be willing to make a long-term commitment, she said.

“It’s not only doing a cheek swab at the donor drive. People should understand the commitment,” she noted.

Joyce Jones, a past Fair chairman whose daughter married into the Zick family, agreed, adding how traumatic it would be to be told you had a potential match only to be told the potential donor was no longer willing to do the donation.

“It’s like wasting hope of people who are devastated, and desperately looking for a matching donor,” Von Der Muehlen said.

Collection

The actual collection of stem cells can be made in two ways.

In peripheral blood stem cell donation, cells are collected via the bloodstream. To increase the number of stem cells in the bloodstream, donors receive daily injections of a synthetic protein called filgrastim for four days before and on the day of the collection.

Blood is removed with a sterile needle from one arm and passed through a machine that separates out the blood stem cells. It is returned to the donor through the other arm.

Filgrastim can cause flu-like symptoms, which should subside within 48 hours of donation.

“We are always honest about the side effects,” said Von Der Muehlen, adding there are many misconceptions among the public about bone marrow donations.

“We make sure our donors are safe,” she said.

In the other type of collection, marrow cells are collected from the backside of the pelvic bone using a special syringe. Patients receive a general anesthesia, but may experience pain, bruising and stiffness after the donation for up to two weeks.

“But at the end of the day, he or she can save a life,” Von Der Muehlen said.

There is no cost to the donor. The patient’s insurance pays all related cost.

Those who have already registered do not need to register again, Von Der Muehlen noted.

Those who can’t donate can still help by recruiting family and friends, organizing a donor drive, making a monetary contribution, fundraising or becoming a corporate sponsor.

For more information visit www.getswabbed.org or by calling 866-340-DKMS.

Those who can not register at the Washington Town and Country Fair can still visit the Web site and request a swab kit.

Donations are accepted, but not required. DKMS is a nonprofit, and all donations help, Von Der Muehlen said.

Fair Drive

The booth at the Washington Fair will be set up in the main walkway near the rest tent area, across from the first-aid building and by the motor sports arena.

The two closest gates are the north gate, where the buses drop people off, and the south gate, by the livestock arena.

Patients First Health Care and Clemco Industries are sponsoring the booth.

To volunteer at the booth or for more information, people may e-mail Maggie Zick at magpiej22@gmail.com, or call 636-667-7424.

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