Making a match, saving a life

University of South Carolina’s chapter of Be The Match recruited the most people for the bone marrow registry of any campus in the U.S. The UofSC organization registered 1,412 people in the 2015-16 school year, almost twice as many as second-place University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, which had 753 registrants. Clemson University was fifth with 535 registrants.

The Carolina club is small —just 12 regular members this past school year — but its impact is large.

“It’s a low-intensity club, but it can truly save someone’s life,” says Ashley Collier, Be The Match’s community engagement manager for South Carolina. “Those kids are very dedicated. Just 12 students recruiting more than 1,400 people is pretty impressive on a per student basis. There are not many clubs that can say that.”

Be The Match, a national marrow donor program, registers and matches bone marrow donors with people in need of marrow transplants, like those suffering from blood cancers. Be The Match’s campus groups work as a middleman to register potential donors by planning events and working with other on-campus organizations — like Delta Zeta sorority, the marching band, club baseball, lacrosse and others. Be The Match draws potential donors from its partner organizations and well as hosting drives.

“You don’t actually donate bone marrow at the drives so we have forms that you fill out if you’re interested and it gives us your medical history and ethnicity,” says Rebekah Parris, a sophomore and president of the university’s Be The Match student organization. “Then you swab your cheeks to get a sample of your DNA and that will go in the database. And if someone needs bone marrow transplant, they’ll take their DNA and match it with whoever matches from the database.”

It’s not easy to find a match. Only one in 430 members of the U.S. Be The Match registry actually donate. College-age adults are the most sought-out age group because cells from younger donors lead to more successful transplants.

The club baseball president, Miles Moody, and other club baseball members registered in April to be potential donors while meeting with Be The Match. Moody then received a phone call in May that he was a match.

“By that time, I was back in New Jersey,” Moody says. “From there, we had the whole questionnaire over the phone, and then I went and did a blood drop to see if I was a ‘good match.’ I was. So then we went to the hospital and did a whole physical exam. That all checked out. From there we had some phone calls, signed some documents and the donation date was on July 20.”

Moody donated blood stems cells, not bone marrow.

“We went to the hospital, and they basically hooked me up to a machine that separated the peripheral blood stem cells out of my blood. It’s basically like giving blood, not like the bone marrow transplant. I was there for maybe five hours. That was it. It was quick and easy. They took good care of me.”

Moody does not know the name of the person he helped, but he does know he helped save the life of someone with acute myeloid leukemia. This year, club baseball is planning to co-host an event with Be The Match to get more registrants.

Even with successful donations, there is still some hesitation for potential donors because of myths about donating. Many people who are asked to donate give peripheral blood stem cells, like Moody did. The process takes blood from one arm, filters out stem cells that the recipient will use and puts blood back in the other arm.

With a marrow donation, the donor is under anesthesia and a doctor removes marrow from the back of the donor’s pelvic bone. This procedure is more invasive and requires a longer recover time. However, it is less common because of the innovation discovered with the stem cell procedure.

There will be bone marrow drives hosted throughout the year. Be The Match and the Carolina Band will host one Sept. 28 on Greene Street and at the Darla Moore School of Business.

For more information about Be The Match on-campus, contact Be The Match student organization at

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