Bone Marrow Drive Benefits Armenians

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el-vaquero-staff-writer/" class="creditline">JAMMIE SALAGUBANG
El Vaquero Staff Writer

Did it hurt? Before the student could answer, Karine Khudikian, a clinical laboratory scientist, burst out laughing and said, “Oh no, of course not! My hands are like this” and fluttered her hands like butterfly wings.

They were a small but lively group that freely joked and laughed, but became earnest when talking about their cause – recruiting bone marrow donors.

The Armenian Student Association and the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry hosted the drive in the Student Center on Tuesday, April 29.
Khudikian, a volunteer with the registry, collected the blood samples from the student donors, specifically Armenian ones.

Some may ask, why was the drive just for Armenians? A brochure from the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry said that “like many other ethnic minorities, Armenians have a unique genetic make up.meaning that there is a much higher probability of finding a bone marrow match among other Armenians.”

Also, it said a bone marrow transplant is the last hope of survival for people suffering from fatal blood diseases, like leukemia and aplastic anemia, with children as the most patients afflicted with the disease.
The Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry’s goal is “to bring two Armenians together anywhere in the world: One to give. One to receive – the gift of life.”

When people contact the registry seeking a bone marrow match, the registry gathers tissue type information or a blood sample from the patient and searches its donor database for a bone marrow match.

The registry is also a member of the World Marrow Donor Association, and regularly shares its patient and donor databases with the world’s other registries to “maximize the chance of a match for life.” The more donors in the database, the better the chances for a match.

Aris Artunyan, 20, architecture major and president of the Armenian Student Association, decided to organize the donor drive after receiving an information packet from the registry.

“What [the registry] is trying to do is save lives,” said Artunyan. “When there’s potential to get a match, there’s potential to save a life. I think we as Armenian students should have some part in helping them.”

Even if they’re scared. Selin Petrosians, 19, sociology major said she was frightened by the thought of giving blood. But she had made a New Year’s resolution to donate, and decided to just do it. “I’m really happy I did it,” she said. “I recommend other people to come and give.”

But donors must meet specific criteria. They must be at least 18 years of age, and not older than 60 years. Donors are automatically deleted when they reach their 61st birthday.

People with diabetes, cancer, or even a history of cancer are ineligible.
Also, people with chronic, severe back problems or back surgery within the past 5 years are not accepted as donors, and neither are obese people. People suffering from asthma that requires the use of medication also cannot donate.

Donors must also be brave. Collecting bone marrow from a donor is also a bit more complicated than donating blood.

According to medformation.com, a community service of Allina Hospitals and Clinics, “to harvest bone marrow, surgery is needed. A needle is put into several places in the hipbones to take out bone marrow.”

“The bone marrow is then purged (cleaned) to remove bits of fat and bone. The bone marrow may also be treated to kill any cancer cells. It is either frozen to use later or taken directly to the person who will get it.”

Anna Hovakiyan, 19, law, said that she registered to be a donor because she wanted “to help my country’s children. It’s a terrible thing; it’s an illness with no cure. I want to help that generation in my country, I’m proud of our children.”

Donor information, such as name, address and medical information, are kept confidential.

For at least one year after the transplant, the donor and recipient can only write to each other anonymously through the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry.

Should both the donor and recipient wish to meet, the registry coordinators can help facilitate the process.

Said Anna Arakelyan, 19, computerized art: “Even though we’re far apart in other countries, we still want to help each other.”

For more information about registering and donating bone marrow, contact the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry, 620 S. Glendora Ave., Glendora, or call (626) 914-3838.