Sophomore Sanajna Perungulam, has created a program where one donates blood marrow to patients that need it. Bone marrow is spongy tissues that are inside the bones, they contain blood cells which carry oxygen from the lungs to the body.
“So bone marrow is basically a spongy tissue inside your bones, like those in your hip. They contain stem cells which are cells that develop into red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Healthy bone marrow is needed as stem cells divide and produce new cells, which is why many blood cancer patients rely on bone marrow and other transplants,” said Perungulam.
The test does not hurt, that is because it is a simple cheek swab. During the donation, blood is usually taken out through a catheter in a vein in your arm. The blood is sent through a machine that takes out the stem cells. The unused components are returned to your bloodstream. This process is called apheresis. It typically takes up to two hours and is done as an outpatient procedure. You’ll typically undergo two to four apheresis sessions, depending on how many blood stem cells are needed. Of course, donators cannot do it on their own. They need to visit a doctor or a doctor will come to visit them.
“I decided to do this because I think sometimes people may not consider signing up for a bone marrow registry, but it’s something that is needed to save people’s lives. I also really loved learning about medicine and health so a venture that is very interesting for me and will help many blood cancer patients. Blood cancer is a huge issue and just signing-up will give others hope,” said Perungulam.
Giving blood can save 4.5 million lives each year in the U.S., yet fewer than 1 out of 10 people in the U.S. donate. Donating blood is safe, quick, and easy, but fear of needles, feeling weak, or believing others are donating enough to keep people away from donating.
“Well if you are between the ages of 18-44, the registration is free because that is when you are old enough to donate by yourself and when it is safest to donate. The most important benefit is that you are potentially saving another person’s life,” said Perungulam.
Even though there is no cost for people that are under the age of 18, they still need their parents permission to be able to donate a blood marrow.
“You sign up online to go give bone marrow and they will send you a cheek swab to get your DNA. If you matched a patient, only then you will be called to give your blood.