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Blood and bone marrow drive aims to attract people of color

Students at the Blood and Bone Marrow Drive. (Alixandra Greenman)

This year’s blood drive, held in the Student Union the beginning of March, was organized by the first-year and sophomore classes, but there was something different. The event typically consists of a blood drive only, but this year marked the return of the National Bone Marrow Registry to campus.

“We try to do them annually, but it’s been a couple years since we’ve been here,” said Pamela O’Hara, a Red Cross Volunteer Coordinator.

O’Hara said the end result is very rewarding. “If you can save someone’s life while you’re still alive, why would you wait?”

This year’s event, held March 2, focused on registering people of color to donate bone marrow. Only eight percent of the national registry is comprised of people of color, according to Oakland resident Dean Kiel, who attended the event to raise awareness about bone marrow registry.

Kiel’s daughter Johnika was diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia and Paroxysmal Nocturnal Hemoglobinuria (PNH), a life-threatening blood condition. Johnika, who is African American, needs a transplant in order to survive, but according to Kiel a match has not yet been found.

Kiel has spoken about the importance of donating while attending drives at the Black Expo in Sacramento, several black churches and other community events.

He is not the only one who is working to raise awareness in his community about the lack of people of color in the bone marrow registry.

Red Cross Blood and Bone Marrow Drive | Mills College from The Campanil on Youtube.

Junior Dawn Liu said she registered because she is “really involved with the Asian-American community and I know there’s a lack of bone marrow donors.”

Liu said in her experience, members of her community shy away from marrow donation because doing so goes against traditional customs.

“It’s part of the culture: You don’t give something from your body to someone else,” she said. “I don’t know what the taboo is, it just is.”

According to Sophomore Class Organizer Jillian Harris, this year’s drive went as planned, despite relatively low attendance due to bad weather.

Even so, many people were nervous about donating blood.

“I’m scared. I don’t know if it’s gonna hurt or not,” first year Noni Thomas said.

Like Thomas, sophomore Ana Sanchez was scared the first time she donated but felt better about it this time around, she said while eating snacks at the recovery table.

Organizers stood behind the table, which was filled with Oreo cookies, crackers and other packaged snacks. The snacks are there to refuel the body after losing a considerable amount of blood.

According to the Red Cross, the human body usually contains 10 to 12 pints of blood. The normal amount of blood taken from each individual at a drive is one pint. Harris said most donors at the event did well but, by 11 a.m., a few people felt faint.