NCCU student, event seek to boost black bone-marrow donors

From staff reportsOctober 15, 2013 

NCCU student Sheldon Mba is the face of the DoSomething.org campaign “Give a Spit.”

NCCU

— Every year, more than 12,000 patients in the United States are diagnosed with life-threatening diseases such as leukemia or lymphoma for which a bone-marrow transplant or a transfusion of umbilical cord blood is their best or only hope of a cure.

About 70 percent of patients who need a transplant do not have a matching donor in their family. They depend on the Be The Match Registry to find an unrelated donor or umbilical cord blood unit.

One person waiting for a bone marrow transplant is N.C. Central University sophomore Sheldon Mba.

A year ago, Mba started to have flu-like symptoms, was constantly fatigued and despite rest and diet changes, didn’t improve. He learned he had paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH), a progressive and destructive disease that results when the body’s red blood cells, missing a key protein, are attacked by white blood cells. Mba also has aplastic anemia, a blood disorder in which the body's bone marrow doesn't make enough new blood cells. Every two weeks he heads to the UNC Hematology Clinic for treatment, and he takes eight medications on a daily basis.

“I never know how I’ll feel,” Mba said. “That’s why I focus on dance education. I have learned that despite not being a performer, I can still be a dancer.”

Sheldon is the face of the DoSomething.org campaign, “Give a Spit.” The partnership between Be the Match Registry and DoSomething.org seeks to increase the number of bone-marrow donors of color.

This year, DoSomething.org is making it even easier for young people to swab their cheek and get friends involved by encouraging participants to incorporate “Give a Spit” into existing parties they’re hosting, like a Halloween Party, Greek event, etc. By signing up for a party, DoSomething.org will connect young people with an expert from Be The Match who will help plan the event and swab all of those cheeks. Everyone who hosts a party or get-together is eligible for a $4,000 scholarship.

In addition to targeting college students, the campaign focuses on making the registry more diverse. Minorities make up only 25 percent of the registry and as a result, Caucasians have a 93 percent chance of finding a matching donor, and minorities’ likelihood is considerably lower at 66 percent to 73 percent.

To participate in ‘Give a Spit about Cancer,’ or for more information on starting a campus bone marrow donor registry drive, go to DoSomething.org/spit, or text “SPIT” to 38383.

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