Are you a match? Become the cure

It's a donation unlike any other made at Western Illinois University.

Dozens of students, staff and community members are making a commitment to help more than 14 thousand people diagnosed with blood diseases every year.

"I hear the stories about how people go out there and just help complete strangers and it's a pretty powerful thing. Getting a cheek swab is the least I can do," Kevin Palermo, a WIU grad student said.

Palermo spent the morning giving samples of his DNA in hopes of becoming a lifesaving match.

"I've done my research in the past before and I've thought about it before. It's kind of a big decision," Palermo said.

Palermo is now registered with Be the Match, a non-profit organization that helps patients find matches for bone marrow transplants. In some cases, it's the best or only option for people with lukemia, lymphoma or sickle cell disease. Recently, scientists have looked at effects it may have on people living with HIV.

"About 30 percent of patients in need will find a match within the family. So, 70 percent of patients that need a donor will rely on the registry," Amy Brousseau with Be the Match said.

About 10.5 million people have registered to become a donor on Be the Match, but Brousseau says it's not enough.

"A patient's chance for finding a match is about 66 to 94 percent based on race and ethnicity," Brousseau said.

"It hits close to home for me. I lost one of my best friends when I was about 23 to lukemia and that's deeply affected me and make me more close to this organization. Also, I now have a family member who's looking for a match and having a hard time finding one," Melissa Blasi, the campus advisor for Be the Match said.

Once you sign your name to the registry, you take a cheek swab for DNA and you're on that registry until your 61st birthday.

"It's more of a commitment than sitting down giving blood. It's something you won't hear about right away, but down the road," Palermo said.

A donor pays nothing when chosen. You'll first provide a blood sample to confirm you're a match. The actual donation can come in two ways, the most common by a blood stem cell donation or through a surgical procedure to extract the bone marrow.

Tri-State residents have another chance to sign up with Be The Match Friday on the WIU campus. The event takes place at the Donald S. Spencer Student Recreation Center from noon to 6 p.m.

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