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Law Enforcement Volunteers Recruit Bone Marrow Donors

Law-enforcement volunteers from the Officers Give Hope Foundation visited San Diego on Friday morning to recruit bone marrow donors.

Aired 11/1/13 on KPBS News.

The Officers Give Hope Foundation comes to town to register San Diegans as bone marrow donors.

Justine Garcia, a San Diego resident, donates blood regularly and decided to also register to donate marrow.

“If I’m ever in that situation, I can only hope that there are other people out there willing to help me out too, so it’s just one of those good karmas. Even though I don’t know anybody personally, there’s still people out there who need it, and if it’s something that I can do, then why not,” Garcia said.

The national bone marrow registry is looking to increase the odds of matching donors with sick people by increasing the size and diversity of the 6 million-person registry.

Retired police officer John Whitely said many people are reluctant to sign up for the registry because they are afraid donating will hurt. Whitely said there are two different ways to donate marrow.

“Taking blood out of one arm, taking the stem cells out and putting the blood back into the other arm. Much the same way as you would give platelets at a hospital. The other way to do it is through the hip and that is a full surgical procedure,” Whitley said.

When the surgical procedure is performed, doctors take two fist-sized beakers of marrow from the hip bone. The marrow grows back in three to four weeks.

Whitley also said that donating marrow requires a more stringent match than giving blood. To help ensure a correct match is found, people must fill out a six-page application to sign up for the registry.

Officers Give Hope Foundation volunteers have signed up about 15,000 people in the past 13 years. Whitely said more than 100 have been matched with someone who has a serious illness. Bone marrow transplants can help people with conditions such as leukemia, lymphoma and sickle cell anemia.

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