Sami, a seven-year-old girl, lives with Fanconi Anemia, a blood disorder that affects one out of 350,000 people.
If left untreated, it may cause bone marrow failure and some forms of cancer.
Sami needs a bone marrow transplant from someone, but cannot find a donor.
However, the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation, along with MedLife at Queens College, organized a bone marrow drive at Benjamin S. Rosenthal Library on Feb. 24. The goal was to collect as many cheek swabs as possible from students and professors to find a match for Sami and many others in need of a transplant.
Akiva Raskind and Tami Liebman, two campus ambassadors for Gift of Life at QC, are in charge of organizing bone marrow drives not only at QC, but also throughout Queens.
“How many opportunities in your lifetime do you have to save someone’s life? The campus ambassador program is an opportunity of many lifetimes,” Raskind said.
The two explained that, to join the Gift of Life’s registry, people can fill out a registration form. Afterward, they receive four large Q-tips to swab saliva from their mouth. Finally, the Q-tips are stored in an envelope for testing and additional medical questions are asked.
“Anybody can join the registry, it’s so easy,” Liebman said. “If you end up donating in the future, then that’s the greatest miracle. So why not [donate]?”
When a match is found, a representative from Gift of Life contacts the person to donate their bone marrow. If the person agrees, then the organization pays for expenses for the bone marrow transplant, including the hospital bills. Recovering from a bone marrow transplant takes a few weeks.
But Raskind explained this is not the only way to help. He said there were other opportunities too, like volunteering.
“Informing others of the truth is just as valuable as donating” Raskind said.
At the past bone marrow drive, Raskind and Liebman processed 149 people who will remain in the registry until turning 60. The organization does not accept donations from people older than 60.
As one example of the donation drive’s potential, the Gift of Life informed Raskind and Liebman that a person who swabbed at an event in November was a match for a 67-year-old woman battling Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a form of cancer.
The news excited the two. Raskind and Liebman said they feel blessed to be in the Gift of Life community.
“They want you there, not even for the extra help, they really just want you there,” Liebman said. “Once you are a part of the Gift of Life family, you are always a part of the family, for life.”
There is still no donor for Sami, but Raskind and Liebman are committed to finding one through more events in Queens. For example, they have an upcoming drive in March called Match Madness where they will reach out to as many students as possible to find a donor.