North Carolina Central University students take part in Match Madness

Students lined up Thurs. to be registered bone marrow donors, a cause close to the university and ABC11.
March 6, 2014 3:47:35 PM PST
A simple swab could help save someone's life.

Students at North Carolina Central University lined up in droves Thursday, to register to be bone marrow donors, for a cause that has a close connection with the Durham school and ABC11.

The donor drive ties into ABC11's Be the Match campaign and a friendly competition called Match Madness.

It is as simple as filling out some paperwork and swabbing the inside of your cheek, and you could be the match that could save someone's life.

That is the message the Be the Match campaign sought to share with students and staff at the drive at NC Central. The location for the drive was especially appropriate, considering one of the students at the school, Sheldon Mba, has been looking for a match for two years now.

"Right now he has a plastic anemia, that's a blood disorder, and he needs a bone marrow transplant to survive this disease," said Betsie Letterle, with Be the Match.

Mba wanted to be at Thursday's drive but could not because he had to go to Chapel Hill for treatment. Still, his story is well known on campus, and that prompted several students who know him to sign up Thursday.

"I know Sheldon, not personally but I've met him before, and if that was me I'd want somebody to do the same," said student Briana Troy.

Organizers say it is especially important to encourage all races to sign up for the match registry, because right now they are hurting for minorities.

"At any point there are over 12,000 patients who are searching the registry and need a matching donor to make their marrow or stem cell transplant possible," Letterle said.

Sadly, there are not enough people on the registry. It is not a blood type match, it is a tissue match, and there are thousands of different tissue types. By signing up there is a slim chance, but if you are found to be a match they will walk you through what comes next, depending on what kind of transplant the recipient needs.

"Stem cells will be taken from the vein from the donor's arm, so it's very similar to a blood donation, and it's done this way 80 percent of the time. They can ask for marrow from the back of the hip, which is a surgical procedure, and the donor is under anesthesia so you're sound asleep," Letterle said.

Afterward, you might feel a little achy but that is it. For those students ABC11 spoke with, who signed up at the drive, they said it is a small price to pay to save a life.

ABC11 is a proud sponsor of the Match Madness events. On March 15, during the St. Patrick's Day festival, you can sign up right down the street from the Raleigh Eyewitness News Center on Fayetteville Street.

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