The Lehigh football team hosted a bone marrow drive in Lamberton Hall on April 27.
The drive, “Be the Match,” is a nationwide registry that started at Lehigh in 2009 when Andy Talley, the head football coach at Villanova, reached out to Lehigh’s head coach Donnie Roberts and asked if he would be interested in contributing to the bone marrow drive.
Roberts said he tries to have more students attend every year and join the cause. Each year, the team strives to get as many students to sign up because the chances of finding a perfect bone marrow match are slim. Since 2009, seven Lehigh students have been perfect matches, four of them football players. Roberts said the first student who donated in 2011 ended up having a relationship with the person he donated to.
“Yale’s been (registering) over 400 people every year since they’ve been involved,” Roberts said. “We’re not even close to that. But it’s just the idea that here at Lehigh, if we’re over 100, I feel good. If we were one, I would feel good, because this is bigger than sports when you have the opportunity to save someone’s life.”
Participants remain on the registry until their 61st birthday unless they request to be removed from future searches for a match, or they do not meet medical requirements to be eligible. While it is a long-term commitment, “Be the Match” does its best to cover all medical and travel costs of donating.
Assistant coach Tyler Ward, ’14, said applicants fill out a form, their cheeks are swabbed to retrieve DNA and the samples are sent out to be analyzed.
“I think one out of 432 people end up matching with someone, which is why we need so many more people to sign up,” Ward said.
If applicants are matched with someone, they receive a phone call and go to a nearby doctor to learn how they can donate. There are two different ways to donate, either through giving blood or bone marrow.
Giving bone marrow is similar to giving blood. Eighty percent of people who donate at all donate blood while 20 percent donate bone marrow. Blood donations are processed through a machine that removes stem cells and returns blood to the system. Bone marrow donations involve a surgery under anesthesia where marrow is removed from the pelvic bone. Ward said both procedures are minor.
“You don’t feel it, you’re under anesthesia, and both of them are pretty quick, pretty seamless processes,” Ward said.
Roberts said after having the marrow removed, he found the pain comparable to lightly bruising a hip. He said while the thought of going under anesthesia and having a procedure done is intimidating, it could save someone’s life.
Julia Wise, ’20, helped students with forms at the drive.
“I think this is an awesome event, especially on a college campus, because you can recruit so many more people,” Wise said. “The youngest generation is what’s really going to help this cause.”