Many students go to college because they want to make a difference.
On Wednesday, UNM students will get a chance by signing up to become potential bone marrow donors for people suffering from blood cancers and other blood-borne illnesses. Interested people can sign up outside of the SUB from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Alex Kimura, the director of Share American’s Marrow, and her sister Sam Kimura began this program to raise awareness and register as many people as possible in April 2010. This is the first year a Share America’s Marrow tour has taken place. New Mexico will be the 48th state that the troop will be going to.
“Only 25 percent of bone marrow donors match for all of the patients. It is rare to find donors,” Alex Kimura said.
On average, there are over 15,000 patients that need a bone marrow transplant for leukemia, sickle cell anemia and blood cancers, she said.
“Most of the time these illnesses affect children. Hospitals are typically looking for transplants for children,” she said.
Alex Kimura said she wants to emphasize this is not a drive to donate bone marrow, it’s just a chance to sign up as donors.
“If a donor gets a call, they are probably the only person in the world to match with the recipient. There might not be another chance without them,” she said.
The human body is able to replace bone marrow. The cells are typically extracted through blood donations 75 percent of the time, she said. Donations are only taken from the bone itself 25 percent of the time, she said, and many people hesitate to donate because they fear the pain involved in the extraction process.
"If a donor needs to have bone marrow extracted, they are put under anesthesia,” she said.
Until then, all registered donors need to do is put their names in the system and give a cheek swab sample.
Alex and Sam Kimura have been creating a bone marrow donor registry since Sam was diagnosed with bone plastic anemia in April 2010.
Get content from The Daily Lobo delivered to your inbox
“I was diagnosed when I was 17, and when they checked to see if my sister could be a donor, she wasn’t,” Sam Kimura said.
Siblings are typically the first people picked to assist with bone marrow donations. Unfortunately for Sam Kimura, her sister was not compatible and she was unable to find another donor in the registry. Sam Kimura endured blood treatments and therapies, which has put her condition into remission.
“SAM began in May of 2014, and is going to end on Christmas day. The program will continue, but it won’t be to this capacity,” Sam Kimura said.
Melissa Wagner, a UNM alum, was also diagnosed with bone plastic anemia when she was 25. Her donor was found in Germany.
“My sister saw (the Kimuras’) story and told me about them. I made sure I could do anything to help them,” said Wagner.
She said she was touched, moved, and inspired by the Kimura sisters’ story.
“They are dedicating a year of their lives to help other people, and not just Sam,” she said.
Although Ryan Gregg, a success coach in the office of student academic success, is unable to donate, he said he believes donations are honorable and important.
Gregg said many people don’t know the requirements needed to donate bone marrow, but those who are able to meet those requirements should do it.
“People (who are) affected tell other people to pay attention. People this affects directly have seen their family members die or (have) been in traumatic experiences and benefited from a donation,” Gregg said.
Imani Lambert is a culture reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @DailyLobo.