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PROJECT 44: Help save lives through bone marrow transplants with Be The Match

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Posted at 1:17 PM, Sep 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-28 14:14:37-04

INDIANAPOLIS -- For thousands of people with leukemia or other blood diseases - a bone marrow transplant is their only hope of survival. 

Be The Match is an international bone marrow registry that doctors around the world use if a patient does not match with a family member. It connects them to millions of people that might just be that match. 

Every three minutes someone in the United States is diagnosed with blood cancer. That is 480 people per day and almost 200,000 per year.

It is something from a complete stranger - that could be what saves that person's life. 

It was a bone marrow donation that gave former Butler men’s basketball player Andrew Smith more time.  Time that his family got to spend with him before he died in January.

“Think about it, if it is somebody in your family that was in need, you would want everyone to join,” Angela Touseull of Be The Match said. “Because even though there are 12-and-a-half million people on our registry, there are still thousands of people who are looking for their match every day.  So we need people to sign up, and it is a very easy process.”

It's not complicated to register: Fill out a form, swab your mouth and be ready to commit if you get a call.

“If you are the only match for that patient, and you don't feel like you can follow through with it, it is heartbreaking,” she said.

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If you are matched - there are two ways you donate.

“75 percent of the time it is a needle in one arm, they take the blood and the stem cells out and filter that with an apheresis machine, and then they put the blood back in the other arm, minus the stem cells,” she said.

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If the bone marrow is needed for a child, it’s a slightly different process.

“ … It is a needle in your hip, under anesthesia so you don't feel it. And just like blood, in four to six weeks your body regenerates everything you have donated.”

With tissue types being so specific - you could be the only one that has what someone else desperately needs.

“We are looking for that one person in the world who can match that patient and save their life,” Touseull said.
To qualify as a donor, you have to be between the ages of 18 to 44, be in good general health, and be ready to donate to anyone in need. 

Head to Hinkle Fieldhouse Thursday from 3-7 p.m. to become a donor, or visit bethematch.org.