To become a potential match for someone who has a life-threatening blood disease and is in need of a stem cell transplant may sound a little complicated, but it was “as easy as 1, 2, 3” for College of the Canyons students Giselle Camas and Leah Flores.
They were among a group of Santa Clarita Valley residents who partook Friday in a drive-in community registry event hosted by the college’s Biology Club and Be The Match, a nonprofit organization that connects patients with their donor match for marrow or blood stem cells.
Set up in Valencia and in partnership with Real Life Church, participants filled out a user-friendly registration on their phone and conducted a 10-second swab test that would then be mailed and entered into the registry.
“I was amazed at how easy it was,” said Camas. “I’m really happy to be able to help someone out if I am a match. I just think: Take chances, if it’s that easy, why not help someone out?”
Friday’s event was modified to comply with COVID-19 safety measures, which allowed participants to remain in their vehicles or step outside and conduct their own cheek swabs, as staff were readily available to assist while wearing face masks and gloves.
“Anyone could really do it, and you can do the swab test yourself. I really liked that aspect,” said Flores.
Events such as these help patients who are diagnosed with blood cancers and life-threatening blood diseases find a blood stem cell donor.
“What a lot of people don’t know is that 70% of patients who are diagnosed with one of these life-threatening blood diseases will not have a match in their family,” said Christine Mantilla, coordinator of member engagement, enrollment and experience at Be The Match. “So they rely on being a match and unrelated donors to be their care.”
Only about 1 in 430 U.S. registry members, or 0.2%, go on to donate bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells to a patient, she added.
For more information, visit biologyclubcoc.org/bethematch. To join the registry, visit join.bethematch.org/COCBio or text “COCBio” to 61474.