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28th MDSS Lab asks for marrow donors

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. --

Airmen from the 28th Medical Support Squadron hosted a week-long bone marrow registry drive at the base clinic from April 24 to 28, 2017.

To become a part of the registry, Airmen had to complete a consent form and swab the inside of their cheeks with a testing kit provided by the 28th MDSS staff. When a recipient requires a bone marrow donation, the registered member with a matching Human Leukocyte Antigens could be contacted by a doctor to begin the preliminary stage of donation.

People have multiple reasons to donate bone marrow, some for the glory, some to make a difference and some people donate just to donate.

Tech. Sgt. William Culver, a targets intelligence analyst assigned to the 28th Operations Support Squadron, joined the registry in 2008.

“I was in Airman Leadership School when I signed up to donate,” Culver said. “I want to help people, and [donating] is one way I can.”

Culver said he was called in 2011, and informed he was a match to someone needing bone marrow.

“It isn’t for everyone, some people are scared of needles,” Culver said. “To extract the marrow, doctors drilled into my lower back. It was a little nerve wracking, but in the end, I was able to give some to a person who needed it.”

There are two primary ways to donate bone marrow, the first involves the patient being sedated and having the bone marrow extracted; and the second, less invasive way, involves an extraction through a process similar to donating blood.

“It used to be really invasive,” said Master Sgt. Benjamin McReynolds, the clinical laboratory noncommissioned officer in charge assigned to the 28th MDSS. “We used to take blood and it was a long process so we would only receive 10 volunteers a year. Now, there’s a swab that people can do by themselves and then bring back to us, then we send it off to the database.”

The transplantation costs, travel expenses, HLA typing [a testing method to match a bone marrow or cord blood transplant donor with a recipient] and any other donation expenses, depending on the expense are handled by the C. W. Bill Young Department of Defense Marrow Donor Recruitment and Research Program or Be The Match.

“The medical group collects DNA samples of potential donors,” said Staff Sgt. Ronald Brock, a medical laboratory technician assigned to the 28th MDSS. “It’s for a DNA database because when the donations come from outside the family it becomes extremely hard to make a match [to transplant the bone marrow] on the genetic level.”

This is the second year the 28th MDSS supported the [C. W. Bill Young Department of Defense Marrow Donor Recruitment program]. The Medical Group highlighted bone marrow transplants for a week, however, they are accepting volunteers 365 days a year.

“We aren’t going to turn anyone away,” Brock said. “It helps bring attention to donating because very few people know that it is a possibility for them to do.”

The point of having an entire week dedicated to bringing awareness to donating bone marrow is to make a difference in someone’s life who is in need.

“Donating is a huge deal,” said McReynolds. “When someone donates, the course of a recipient’s life is forever changed. Taking care of people is what really matters, especially when it comes to life or death.”

To learn more about the donation process, contact the 28th Medical Group laboratory at (605)-385-3459.