Swisher, 14, is in the process of organizing a bone marrow match drive at Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on Aug. 25. Partnering with the National Marrow Donor Program’s Be the Match donor registry, Swisher hopes to expand the list of potential donors who could help someone in need of a life-saving miracle. In 2005, Swisher received such a gift.
“I was 7 when I was diagnosed with leukemia,” said Swisher, a member of Boy Scout Troop 927. “I was really young and really sick, and doctors said that a bone marrow transplant would cure me. Luckily, my sister was a perfect match, but while I was in the hospital, I met a lot of people who weren’t so lucky, so for my project, I wanted to do a bone marrow drive to create awareness and hopefully sign up a lot of new donors.”
Today, the Heritage High sophomore is cancer free and living a happy and active life. He plays volleyball for the school and enjoys hiking and camping with his fellow Scouts. The bone marrow transplant he received from Brooke, who was 12 at the time, helped him recover and now he wants to pay it forward.
“To be a part of the donor list, all you have to do is swab your cheek and then the people with Be The Match will process it and see if you are a match for someone,” Swisher said. “The process takes just a few minutes, but the results could mean years for someone who is sick.”
During the event, volunteer donors will register and complete the swab sample for processing. The cheek swab is tested to determine a donor’s human leukocyte antigen (HLA) tissue type. HLA are proteins that the immune system uses to recognize which cells belong in your body and which do not. NMDP will put the information into its databank to see if a donor matches anyone in the registry. If a match is found, more tests are conducted to see if the donor is the best possible match – the closer the match, the greater the success rate. NMDP takes care of all of the medical expenses so that donors aren’t inconvenienced.
Since NMDP invests substantial resources into bringing matches together (processing cheek swabs alone costs approximately $100 per sample), Swisher is also raising funds for the program. His goal is to raise $1,000. He will station collection boxes at the event, but contributors may donate in advance at www.bethematchfoundation.org/goto/brittonswisher.
NMDP matches an average of 5,500 donors with patients in need every year. The need for donors is tremendous. According to NMDP, 70 percent of people in need of a transplant don’t have someone in their family that matches their HLA tissue type.
Swisher’s bone marrow match drive takes place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at LDS Church, 1101 McClarren Road in Brentwood. For more information, e-mail Swisher at email@example.com. For more information about being a donor, visit www.bethematch.org.