HUNTINGTON - Autumn Cole was first diagnosed with leukemia at age 18 during her senior year of high school. Cole, now a 22-year old nursing student at Marshall University, is in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant for the third time.
In an effort to find her a lifesaving donor, the university's DKMS Student Organization will host a swab drive from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. September 16-21 on the Memorial Student Center plaza.
Cole said she appreciates all of the support and love she has received from the university community over the past three years.
In a 2017 press release, Cole said, "Ever since I was diagnosed, I knew there was a reason. God doesn't put you through things without reasoning. I had wanted to go into nursing since my junior year of high school, but I didn't know what route to take. I now know that I want to go into pediatric oncology nursing."
Adam Guthrie, organizer of the swab drive, said he started the student DKMS group in 2016, and since it has registered 1,363 students, faculty and staff as potential bone marrow donors. DKMS is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to the fight against blood cancer and blood disorders, in part by recruiting bone marrow donors. Guthrie said he encourages all Marshall community members to attend the swab drive.
"I hope this event brings in a lot of potential donors because if they're not helping me, they're helping someone else who doesn't have a match," Cole said. "There are so many people out there who need a donor."
Approximately 70% of all patients in need of bone marrow transplants must find a matching donor outside of their family, according to the national DKMS organization.
There are two ways to donate: a peripheral blood stem cell donation and a blood marrow donation.
A peripheral blood stem cell donation is a non-surgical, outpatient procedure that collects blood stem cells via the bloodstream and is done in 75% of cases. These same blood-forming cells found in bone marrow are also found in the circulating (peripheral) blood. It takes about 4-8 hours on 1-2 consecutive days.
A blood marrow donation is used in about 25% of cases, generally when the patient is a child. It is a 1-2 hour surgical procedure performed under anesthesia, so no pain is experienced during the donation. Marrow cells are collected from the back of your pelvic bone using a syringe.
After completing registration at a drive or online, DKMS inputs donor information into its secure donor database and sends the swabs to a laboratory for human leukocyte antigen typing. HLAs are protein markers on cells that are used in matching patients and donors.
Once the HLA typings are complete, donors are listed anonymously - by donor number and HLA type - on the Be The Match Registry operated by the National Marrow Donor Program.
Potential donors may never get contacted to donate, but they may also be the only person on the list that can save another's life.