Eighty-three people registered and 40 updated their registration information yesterday at a bone marrow drive in Corwin Plaza aimed at finding matches for minorities.
The drive was held with the help of the Los Angeles American Red Cross as part of a Nation Marrow Donor Program, which seeks to increase the registration of Latino and African-American donors. Two fraternities – the Latino-based Nu Alpha Kappa and the African-American based fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha – sponsored the event.
Hermandad Dando Esperanza, or “Brotherhoods Giving Hope,” is a federal grant initiative created specifically for Nu Alpha Kappa and hosts events to attract possible donors. Interested volunteers were asked to fill out a simple health questionnaire and give a small blood sample to be eligible to donate marrow if a match is found.
Undeclared sophomore and Nu Alpha Kappa member Marcos Neely Sanchez said the registration will allow patients with blood diseases, especially leukemia, to find a much-needed marrow donor.
“There’s a definite need to register Latinos and African-Americans for the National Marrow Donor Registry,” Sanchez said. “Basically the chances for those respective communities to find a match is very difficult.”
Sanchez said Nu Alpha Kappa saw an opportunity in joining forces with Alpha Phi Alpha, after Nu Alpha Kappa’s first two successful years of the Marrow Drive at UCSB.
Senior global studies major and Nu Alpha Kappa member Felipe Infante said there is a need for minorities to become marrow donors.
“The main thing is we’ve done this on our own so much, and we recognize that there’s a community at a higher risk. Caucasians have a one in 100 chance of finding a marrow donor match, Latinos one in 100,000, and African-Americans one in 500,000,” he said.
Infante said that after registering a person is a member for life.
“It is important to keep up to date with information even if you’ve already registered, especially for college students who move around so much, because if donors can be used they must be able to be reached,” he said.
Armando Hernandez, recruitment specialist for the Marrow Donor Program, said National Latino Month in October is a pertinent time to educate the Latino community.
“Nu Alpha Kappa contacted us at the Red Cross, and because patients needing transplants most often find matches in members of their own ethnic group, we are hoping to increase the amount of Latino and African-American donors,” he said. “While Caucasians have a reserve of 2,421,779 donors, Hispanics have only 372,165 and African-Americans only 353,640.”
Hernandez said there are two ways to collect marrow, the traditional procedure being through surgery to the pelvic bone.
“But because of advances in technology, there’s now a process called “peripheral blood stem cell” donation, in which the donor’s blood is extracted through one arm, an apheresis machine separates out the stem cells and the remaining blood is returned through a sterile needle into the other arm,” he said.
Sanchez said he was happy with both the turnout and the collaboration with Alpha Phi Alpha.
“We also pre-registered people within the I.V. community, including some members from the fraternities and sororities of Gamma Zeta Alpha, Sigma Chi Omega, Lambda Theta Nu, Lambda Sigma Gamma and members of the Latina on-campus organization Hermanas Unidas,” he said. “We want to work with other minority groups in order to learn from and help each other.”