By Claudia Balthazar and Jenica Chandran
Former student Dionis Guerrero Baez is fighting for his life and he's asking University students for their help. Baez left the school to undergo cancer treatment following his diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2009. Still searching for a match, Baez could not find one within the most ideal option, his family. His mother and two sisters had died in a plane crash on their way to the Bahamas in 2001, and his father was unable to donate. Other ideal donors would be those of Hispanic descent, but after a search among 13 million people worldwide, Baez still had no match.
With the help of DKMS Americas, the world's largest bone marrow donor registry; the Health & Wellness Center; Hofstra's Association of Pre-health Oriented Students; and the rest of the student body, Baez might have found the perfect match during a bone marrow registry and Long Island Blood Services' blood drive on March 13. With 500 people already registered in New York City, DKMS managed to register another 60 at the University's event.
Brittany Romain, a sophomore student volunteered to check people into the blood drive and said the event was very successful.
"A lot of people came to donate," said Romain. "A lot of people seem to be very open to helping out."
A bone marrow drive does not work the same way as a bake-sale or car wash fundraiser would.
"A bone marrow registry is a heavy commitment, but the opportunity it provides for countless patients waiting for a transplant is priceless," said Colin Sullivan, assistant director of public relations at the University.
Registering to be a bone marrow donor is similar to donating blood. A person must meet specific requirements like weight and not have certain health conditions like diabetes, hepatitis B and C, and kidney and liver disease.
But while registering is easy, the two ways of donating bone marrow take time and dedication. The first method is through Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Donation, where the donors first receive injections of a synthetic protein called filgastrim prior to and on the day of collection. The protein helps the body to make more neutrophils, a blood cells needed to fight infection. The four-to-six-hour procedure is a non-surgical outpatient in which blood is collected through a sterile needle, and the blood stem cells are separated through an apheresis machine.
The second method is a one-to-two-hour surgical procedure that involves actual bone marrow donation. While the donor is under general anesthesia, marrow cells are collected from the pelvic bone via a special syringe.
DKMS has provided stem cells for over 29,000 transplants with these methods. Despite having 3 million registered donors, the organization does not require any donor to pay a fee. However, to perform either of the two methods costs DKMS $65 per person, which mainly comes from public donations.
Although becoming a bone marrow donor is not an easy choice, sophomore Stephany Velosa chose to do it to help Baez.
"I registered because since I was little kid I wanted to help others in need," she said. "I would do any little thing to save a life. Just the thought of helping a human being is what gets me. It doesn't matter where they're from."
Angela Steinberg, assistant director at the Health and Wellness Center, remains optimistic about Baez's search for a match.
"I have every hope that one day we would find a match for Dionis. Maybe not at Hofstra, but somehow that could happen."