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Eastern students register to donate bone marrow and stem cells

Published on February 08, 2024

Eastern students register to donate bone marrow and stem cells

Volunteers from the men's soccer team recruit donors.

Students volunteer to take oral swabs at the NMDP registry.

The National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) hosted a donor registry at Eastern Connecticut State University on Feb. 7 in partnership with Eastern’s men’s soccer team. The registry sought donors of peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC) and bone marrow.

At the registry, students and other volunteers took oral swabs. Once collected, these swabs are added to the registry in six to eight weeks. Volunteers remain on the registry until their 61st birthday. “We are looking to get as many matches as we can,” said Jessica Pacheco, member recruitment coordinator for NMDP.

Jessica Pacheco
Jessica Pacheco (right), member recruitment coordinator for NMDP.

Roughly 90% of matches are selected for PBSC donations, which are minimally invasive and “similar to donating plasma or platelets,” said Pacheco. Ten percent of matches are selected for bone marrow donations, which are minimally invasive, outpatient procedures in which the donor is under general anesthetic and experiences no pain.

Eastern has hosted the NMDP registry each year since 2012, when Eastern men’s soccer player Jon DeCasanova ’17 was diagnosed with aplastic anemia and lymphatic cancer. While this year’s registry saw a turnout of more than 100 volunteers, more than 600 were present in 2012 with hopes of helping DeCasanova.

While DeCasanova is now healthy, students have plenty of reasons to join the registry. “It takes no time of yours and could save a life and be important to another family,” said sophomore Keira Rogers, who became aware of the registry through friends on the men’s soccer team.

Many students were drawn to the registry by recruitment efforts from volunteers on the men’s soccer team. “Someone stopped me outside and told me it takes five minutes to save a life,” said junior Erin Playdon.

Taylor Homiski, a first-year student who works at Backus Hospital in Norwich, works with “multiple people who have cancer and have been involved with this procedure,” she said.

“Know that we’re very privileged,” said Homiski, a nursing major. “All you can do is this and it will help someone out.”

Junior Michael Stanizzi has previously donated blood through the American Red Cross but became a member of the NMDP registry on Feb. 7. He hopes to make “any impact” through his registration because any impact is a “good impact,” he said.

In total, Eastern has registered 2,328 volunteers for NMDP since 2012, 34 of whom have become donors.

Written by Noel Teter