On Friday, 110 members of the Georgetown community learned how to save a life when they were registered as bone marrow donors at the Get Swabbed, Georgetown University! event.

The donor drive, held in the Village C West Alumni Lounge, was sponsored by DKMS, the world’s largest bone marrow donor center.

Bone marrow donations are used to help patients with leukemia, other blood cancers and fatal autoimmune diseases make new red blood cells. Matches are often difficult to find since they are based on more than eight different tissue characteristics.

Friday’s drive was the latest in a series held at colleges nationwide by DKMS Americas, an offshoot of the German nonprofit organization started in 1991. Georgetown previously held a drive in 2007, and the Public Policy Institute ran one in September.

According to the DKMS Americas website, the organization overall has registered over 2.6 million donors to date. Forty-two percent of DKMS Americas’ registered donors are between the ages of 18 and 22 — the age of a typical college student.

While this does not mean that all of these individuals donate their bone marrow at that age, Kelly Taylor, a donor recruitment coordinator, stated that younger people tend to be favored as donors.

“If a doctor really has the option of more than one donor for a patient, they just want someone who’s young and healthy,” she said. “It’s these young people who are really the ones saving lives, so it’s ‘How do we get more of them on the registry? How do we save more lives?'”

Such statistics greatly influenced Irene Kim’s (SFS ’14) decision to become a registered bone marrow donor last week. After researching the donation procedure, Kim decided that most students carry misperceptions about the pain associated with the process.

“I’m not really scared about anything,” she said. “I think it would be kind of exciting to donate and save someone’s life.”

Caitlin Emma, a senior at the University of Connecticut who is taking classes at Georgetown through the Fund for American Studies Capital Semester program, registered with DKMS her freshman year of college. Two years later, she was contacted by the organization and told that she was a match for a young female patient.

“It was a little scary at first,” she said. “It unnerved my parents a lot. … It took like a week or so of talking about it and understanding what it meant and what the next steps were and things like that before we felt comfortable.”

Emma underwent hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, the most common method of bone marrow donation, in February 2010. The procedure lasted about six to eight hours and was painless aside from side effects including giddiness and fatigue.

Although Emma has not met the patient who received her marrow, they have exchanged letters and Emma has released her information so that the girl can contact her in the future if she so wishes.

“I would say that it’s probably the greatest thing I’ve ever done — probably the easiest thing to do in the world with the highest pay-off,” she said. “It really takes nothing to register as a donor and to give of yourself to someone else.”

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