SOI-East stepping up to the challenge

20 Nov 2007 | Lance Cpl. Thomas J. Hermesman,

 If asked to make a small sacrifice to save a strangers life, would you make it?

 Students at the School Of Infantry here have stepped up to the challenge, and have been valiantly offering themselves as bone marrow donors without hesitation.

 “This important initiative provides support for military personnel who volunteer as marrow donors,” said the honorable C.W. Bill Young, Department of Defense Marrow Donor Program. “Since the creation of the National Marrow Donor Program in 1986, more than six million Americans, including more than 400,000 service members, have registered as marrow donors.”

 This statement, along with a slide show, is shown to all new students who attend the SOI. Students are asked to perform a small test to see whether or not they are acceptable donors.

 “This has been a very positive experience for the branch,” said Lt. Cmdr. Carol Hurley, department head of the Camp Geiger Medical Branch. “We have had a great amount of participation from the students.”

 The background of this project started with a Marine’s son who, while attending the University of North Carolina in Wilmington, suffered from cancer. This story continues with that student’s commitment to the prevention and treatment of cancer. Following successful, but small scale local drives, the commanding officer of SOI challenged the Camp Geiger Medical Clinic, in conjunction with the Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune, to improve the number of donors to the program.

 “These donors are extremely important and are doing a great service that is very much needed,” said Dr. Jennifer Ng, director of the C.W. Bill Young Department of Defense Marrow Donor Program. “These donors are giving us samples that are very good. The men and women are young, strong individuals who are the best donors we have.”

 Supporting this effort, base groups met with NMDP coordinators to review the goals and procedures established by SOI medical personnel, and assisted with implementation.

 The overall goals are to increase the National DoD Marrow Registry by maximizing the number of student Marine participants during at SOI here. To achieve this, Marines arriving from recruit training to SOI here, will be provided with an opportunity to make a donation.

 “The branch has had a steady stream of donors every week; this helps the numbers stay high,” she said. “These donors are ready to give at anytime and the samples are young and pure, so the recipients are able to receive samples in a very quick manner.”

 “The 90 percent participation rate has come very easily, we would like to have SOI-West do the same thing,” said Hurley.

 When service members go in for donor testing the branch medical staff provides education and information on the donor-ship program.

 “This process is easy and painless,” she said.

 If the individual agrees to be a donor, he will sign a consent form (DoD Form DD 2576) as well as a brief medical questionnaire, she continued.

 After all the appropriate paperwork is filled out some buccal (mucus swabs taken from inside the mouth) are taken.

 These are then taken and sealed in an envelope, and sample is mailed by medical staff to the national database.

 Once the donor is registered in the NMDP computer, marrow transplant medical teams throughout the U.S. and the world can search the NMDP file to determine if the donor marrow type matches the marrow type of a patient who needs a transplant.

 If the need does arise, the donor coordinator from the C. W. Bill Young DoD Marrow Donor Center will inform the donor of their status. If they wish to continue, they will sign an additional consent form. Several tests have to be completed to find out if member is the best match for the patient. If so, the member decides whether to donate after being fully informed.

 At this point, a small amount of marrow is extracted from the back of the pelvic bone using a special needle and syringe in an NMDP approved collection center.

 Typically, the donor stays overnight in the hospital. Once discharged from the hospital, the donor resumes normal work activities after only a few days.

 “The DoD marrow center has the largest amount of stem sell samples in the world,” said Ng, “the military sends us the most samples in the entire U.S.”

 So far the goal of 90 percent participation has been surpassed by SOI-East from April to Sept. 2007.