HAMPTON, Va. — A Hampton University student is leading the first "Be The Match" bone marrow donor drive at a historically black university in an effort to save her cousin's life.
“My cousin Camille Williams suffers from diamond-black fan anemia. Knowing that she has been struggling with this for so long and being by her side through several transfusions, it’s been heart-aching to see that she can’t live a normal life like everyone else,” said Aria Hill, a third-year professional pharmacy student. “Just knowing that if she doesn’t get a bone marrow match, she may not live to see 40 years old. We brought this challenge to HU to bring awareness and hopefully find her a donor.”
Williams, now 20 years old, was diagnosed with the rare blood disorder when she was in middle school.
"My whole life shifted when I was diagnosed," said Williams during a Skype interview from Texas with News 3 This Morning. "I do blood transfusions every four weeks. It's kind of a like a recharge. If I don't get that, my body starts to go down. I can feel me getting sick."
Williams needs a bone-marrow transplant, but the odds of finding a bone marrow match, especially for African-Americans, is only 23 percent, according to the National Marrow Donor Program.
"The solution is to get more African-Americans on the registry available to be donors for people that are battling life-threatening blood cancers and blood disorders," said Dan Gariepy with Be The Match.
He added, "We wanted to target HBCUs across the country, and Hampton University is one of the schools we selected to do programs like this. We’re really proud that Hampton is one of our first rounds.”
Be The Match connects patients with blood cancers with genetically matched donors who are willing to donate life-saving blood stem cells. Genetic markers used to match patients and donors are inherited, so patients are most likely to match someone who shares their ethnic background.
"People think bone marrow transplants will keep them in the hospital for weeks or it’s going to be extremely painful, but it really is just a day or a day and a half out of your life to save someone who’s dying," Gariepy said.
According to Hampton University, each Greek-lettered fraternity and sorority on campus is challenged to register as many people to the “Be The Match” registry as they can. The competition will last until Friday, March 1, 2019. Each chapter has been given a special URL they will use to sign people up as donors. Once the online form is complete, each chapter will get a credit. Prizes up to $2,500 will be given to the chapter with the most registered.
Additionally, Hampton University will have a “Be The Match” table located in the Student Center Atrium on weekdays from the hours of 12 p.m. — 2 p.m. for more information. Each donor will receive a complementary shirt following donor registry.