I had the honor to take part in Mountain Pointe High School’s 3rd Annual Be the Match swab drive on May 8, 2015 in Tempe, Arizona. Organized by the Foreign Language Honor Society with the leadership of Spanish teacher Señora Donna Barry Sampanes, this year’s drive was particularly powerful.
“We’re creating awareness of the need for marrow and stem cell donors at lunch time for two weeks leading up to the drive. Our student volunteers sit at a table with Be the Match (R) information and encourage students to share their spare change to help pay for donor swabs processed and entered into the database. They also answer questions and encourage people to stop by the drive and learn more. Next year’s seniors will have heard about this every year at Mountain Pointe and will finally be able to register when they are 18,” said Señora Sampanes.
Their first swab drive was in May, 2013 when I was in need of a blood stem cell transplant from a matched unrelated donor. Donna, my sister-in-law (though we drop the “in-law” from our personal interactions), sprang into action by engaging her school in our search for a life saver. She continues this effort so that others like me may also have a chance for a cure.
It was an honor to meet these dedicated high school students who continue support Be the Match registry year after year. This year, 89 people got swabbed and joined the national registry!
Real, Live Life Savers
One of the first Mountain Pointe seniors to swab in 2013, Andrew Argaez, learned that he was a match for a leukemia patient just a few months after he joined the registry. I was thrilled to meet him in person. I asked if I could hug him and thanked him profusely for his gift of life. Through Andrew, I was able to express my love and gratitude for my own anonymous donor, whom I’ve yet to meet.
I also met Brie, a graduating senior, who has been notified that she is a match for someone. She is undergoing the further testing now. Andrew shared his experience and encouraged her to follow through the process. “I’d do it again, for sure!” Andrew said.
Let’s Find Mia’s Match!
If meeting these living lifesavers wasn’t enough, I met a most inspiring, vivacious 12 year old named Mia. Mia has the extremely rare Diamond Blacktan Anemia (less than 800 cases in the US). She does not make red blood cells. She relies on blood donors for her red blood cells. Mia and her mother, Kristi, attend many Be the Match events to educate people on the need for more donors in the registry. Mia’s match has not yet been found. She has a great community page on Facebook: Mia’s Marrow.
Biology Classes ROCK!
I was invited to speak to seven Biology and Biology Tech classes on Thursday before the swab drive. Thanks to Mr. Roger LeBlanc and Ms. Meredith Morrissey for allowing me to talk with your students! I shared my story and the discussion in each class took a slightly different turn, as student interests and experiences varied. I was impressed with how many students are aware of chronic invisible illnesses and the impacts they have on the person afflicted and their loved ones. The experience also renewed my appreciation for the work teachers do each and every day for our kids and our community.