Bone marrow drive honors deceased member of UNC Class of 69

Anthony Wilson Image
Sunday, October 29, 2017

CHAPEL HILL, North Carolina (WTVD) -- We get story ideas from several sources, the one that led to Saturday's coverage is about a bone marrow registry drive, put on by a North Carolina family in hopes to shed light on a rare form of blood cancer called MDS.

Kirsten Garriss, a reporter for Spectrum News and member of UNC-Chapel Hill's Class of 2011, knows how serious an MDS diagnosis can be. Her dad, a member of Carolina's class of 1969, died from the rare blood cancer in 2014. Before he died, his treatments included a search for a bone marrow donor.

Garriss told ABC11 that three potential donor options were found when her dad was looking for a transplant and some families don't get that many. It's especially difficult when the patient is not white, she said, since the donor and patient's races must match. That's why she and her family organized the Garriss Bone Marrow Registry Drive and spread the word among people who returned to campus for Black Alumni Weekend.

"We're partnering with Be The Match on UNC's campus," said her brother Kendall Garriss, a student who followed his sister and father to Carolina. "Helping with the bone marrow registry drive to get more people signed up and potentially, save more lives."

They helped Be The Match distribute donation information and took advantage of the opportunity to swab cheeks that could determine compatibility with people who need transplants.

Tiffany Dyer, a nursing student who volunteered at the drive said it's important to dispel some people's concerns about what happens when you register as a potential bone marrow donor.

"Signing up is a simple, painless process," she told us. "You're not donating at that time. You do a couple of mouth swabs, you write your name down and then you go into the registry. Further on down the line, if you're actually needed, is when you get into actual donation questions."

"It's not very painful," added donor Mary Banks. "They just need a bone marrow sample from your hip, and it's very quick recovery. It gives you an opportunity to save a life."

The Garriss family hopes you'll also consider enrolling in a bone marrow registry near you.