Winter 2014 Issue

Being the Match

Campus Bone Marrow Drive Helps Save Lives

By Ashley Murphy '15

“Doesn’t it hurt really bad?” As co-chair of the College’s Alan Bukzin Memorial Bone Marrow Drive, Troy Thomas ’16 hears this question often. Thomas himself has donated peripheral blood stem cells, and explains that he was never apprehensive about the process. He even attended a Buffalo Bills football game the day before the procedure, and felt like normal after it was over.

William & Mary’s bone marrow drive, part of the national organization Be the Match, began in 1991 when a professor was in need of a life-saving bone marrow transplant. The drive continued under the direction of Jay Bukzin ’94, who was searching for a matching donor for his brother Alan, diagnosed with leukemia. The drive is named in Alan’s honor.

Since the drive’s inception, more than 9,000 people have been registered with Be the Match, and nearly 100 matches have been made. The program has received multiple awards, including recognition by the Vir-ginia General Assembly and the Collegiate Award from the National Marrow Donor Program. For the 2013-14 school year, William & Mary was the top fundraising campus in the nation.

Those who are entered into the registry simply have their cheek swabbed and give contact information and some other vital statistics. Each registry entry costs about $100, and the campus organization fundraises throughout the year in order to register as many people as possible. Some common fundraisers are a 5K run/walk, golf tournament, silent auction and T-shirt sales.

Co-chair Lindy Sellew ’16 said that fundraising can be challenging. “There are so many organizations [on campus] with causes that all deserve support, and students have to choose which cause their limited re-sources go towards.” Sellew believes that the College has been so successful in maintaining a legacy with the drive because of W&M students’ dedication to service and their giving nature.

Matthew Lambert ’99, vice president for University Advancement, registered with the drive as an undergraduate. In 2010, more than a decade after he entered the registry, Lambert received a phone call from the national organization informing him that he could be a potential match for a young boy with a rare type of cancer. He felt compelled to donate because he had a young son at the time.

During the College’s fall drive day, donors who are entered into the registry have their cheeks swabbed, and give contact information and other vital statistics.

Unlike blood-type matching, tissue-type matching for patients with blood cancers is complicated, and 70 percent of patients do not have a donor in their family. Donations are possible from one of two sources: marrow collection through a surgical procedure or peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) collection, which is more common and less invasive.

When PBSC collection proved unsuccessful for Lambert, he chose to move forward with surgery. “I hoped that if I was in the same position, or that my son needed a transplant, someone would do the same thing for us,” he said. “I hoped that you would give them every chance to fight for their life.”

Lambert says that he still receives updates from classmates who registered as undergraduates and have not been a match, but who continue to update their information frequently in the event that they are selected as a potential donor. Additionally, those who are considering whether to donate ask him questions about the pain and the process. Like Thomas, he believes that the pain is negligible compared to the impact of potential-ly saving a life.

If you would like to donate to the Alan Bukzin Memorial Bone Marrow Drive, please send checks payable to “Bone Marrow Drive” to Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs, College of William & Mary, P.O. Box 8795, Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795. Alumni and guests are also welcome to participate at any event held on campus, including drive day or the spring golf tournament. For more information, check the organization’s website at