SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. --
What does Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, the Young and the Restless soap opera and national/Department of Defense donor programs all have in common?
They are actively engaged in educating the public about a life-saving opportunity that has less than a two percent match rate and takes only a few minutes to process.
Recently, the 4th Medical Group registered 127 first-term Airmen to kick-off the base DoD bone marrow drive starting Sept. 26-30. The base, in partnership with the C.W. Bill Young/DoD Marrow Donor Program, is searching for a donor match for an Army Sergeant's daughter who continues fighting leukemia.
"The kick-off was successful because we had a chance to evaluate our procedures, then streamline by consolidating collection stations to make the registration and collection process convenient and quicker," said Tech. Sgt. Justin King, 4th Medical Support Squadron medical logistics flight chief. "Now each group representative throughout the wing will have a greet station, informational brochures, consent forms, oral swab kits and someone to answer questions about donating bone marrow."
Frequently asked questions involve the collection process, the medical procedure, deployments and qualifications to be a donor.
"The number one question and misconception is if the bone marrow procedure is painful," said King.
Donors who have experienced the bone marrow donation procedure best describe what it's like.
"In 1994, I was a bone marrow donor for a cancer patient," said Julie Little, 4th Medical Support Squadron medical lab technician. "I was well informed about the entire procedure before it started. Recovery was very quick; I was up and walking around that day. Afterwards, it felt like a localized soreness or bruise. That was the most rewarding thing I've ever done in my life."
Active duty members want to know what happens if they are deployed and identified as a match for a recipient.
"DoD makes every effort to bring you back home from your deployed location and considers it permissive temporary duty so Airmen do not have to use their personal leave," King said. "All travel, meal and hotel expenses are paid for while the donor and their family stay at one of the national hospitals like the one in Washington D.C."
Previous donors describe meal accommodations to include steak, lobster, protein shakes and vitamin supplements to increase red blood cell production in preparation for the medical procedure.
Other common questions include donor qualifications. According to the 4th Medical Group, individuals are not disqualified from being a bone marrow donor if they have deployed or lived in another country. There are very few conditions that disqualify someone to be a marrow donor.
"Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) typing is very different from blood typing," said Senior Master Sgt. Mike Jenkins, 4th Medical Operations Squadron superintendent. "There are very few disqualifying factors that include having the Human Immunodeficiency Virus and certain types of cancers. Airmen can still qualify for bone marrow donation even if they cannot give blood"
There are many personal reasons people choose to become a bone marrow donor. The 4th MDG encourages Airmen to connect with their peers and take this as an opportunity to make a difference for other service members and families.
"The opportunities to save a life and make a difference and know you are doing the right thing - that's what the Air Force core values are all about," Jenkins said.
All DoD card holders including active duty, reserve members, dependents, civilians and contractors ages 18 to 61 are eligible to participate in the upcoming bone marrow drive. The registration and donation process takes approximately 20 minutes. Individuals will register, sign consent forms and will be provided a Buccal kit to swab the inside of their mouth to determine their HLA type. Once registered in the DoD database, donors remain listed until their 61st birthday and always have the option to not participate.
"We want people who are sincere about this process and want to potentially save a life," Jenkins said. "It would be devastating not to save a life if you were called since there is only a 2-3% chance of being a match. Once a donor's marrow is infused in a recipient, you become part of that person's life forever."
To view the Fox News video interview about the Army veteran's daughter in need of bone marrow visit, http://www.myfoxdc.com/dpp/mornings/afghanistan-vets-daughter-in-need-of-bone-marrow-donor-091211
For information about the C.W. Bill Young/DoD Marrow Donor Center visit, www.dodmarrow.org
To register as a donor, contact the 4th Medical Group at 722-1765 or the appropriate group:
4th FW - MSgt. Evon Ware & SrA Collin Broshears (2-0045)
4th OG--Capt. William Watkins (2-3490)
4th MXG--MSgt. Matthew Stathakis (2-3098)
4th MSG--TSgt. Sandi Townson (2-5304) & SSgt. Charles Newberry (2-8716)
4th MDG--SSgt. Kelly Zerr (2-1580)
911th ARS-TSgt. Andrea Nazario (2-1580)
Dependents & Civilians can register at the Base Exchange on Sept 28 from 1000-1400; Commissary Sept. 30 from 1000-1400