Students swab cheeks to save lives of blood cancer patients

Gracie Awalt

Every three minutes, an American is diagnosed with a form of blood cancer, and around 50,000 die every year.

Partnered with the Texas Silver Spurs, Deutsche Knochenmarkspenderdatei Texas swabbed cheeks and registered students as potential bone marrow and stem cell donors in the Texas Union Building on Wednesday to help lower these statistics, listed on DKMS’ website.

DKMS is an international nonprofit organization based in Germany that has registered six million potential bone marrow donors worldwide, according to their website. The Silver Spurs is the all-male organization responsible for taking care of Bevo. Rachel McCulloug, DKMS Texas co-president, said the student organization has worked with the Texas Silver Spurs since Bevo XIV died of bovine leukemia two years ago.

“Bovine leukemia is just like human leukemia but with cows,” donor recruitment coordinator Amy Roseman said. “I enjoy educating people and letting them know they can save a life. We’ve registered a lot of life-savers.”

Last year, they registered 114 people and aimed for 150 this year. McCullough, communication sciences and disorders junior, joined DKMS Texas in the fall of 2016 after her mother was diagnosed with leukemia and learning bone marrow treatment was a possibility.

“On the night of my first donor drive, we found out my mom had relapsed with leukemia again,” McCullough said. “It gave me incentive to do even more.”

According to the DKMS website, around 70 percent of patients do not find a matching donor within their family, requiring most people to hope for a match in the registry. Luckily for McCullough, her aunt was a genetic match for her mother.

“My mom is in remission now and has been since July,” McCullough said. “It definitely saved her life. Most people don’t find a match within their family, so that alleviated a ton of stress for our family. She was so lucky.”

McCullough said students have a one percent chance to be asked to donate stem cells or bone marrow based on lab results. Bryten Otting, government and radio-television-film sophomore, said he would be glad to donate.

“If I were asked to donate tomorrow, I’d just do it,” Otting said. “Even though I’ve heard donating can be intense, I would ignore my fear and just go.”