When three Southern Arkansas University nursing students started organizing next week’s stem cell registry drive more than three months ago, they were not aware that a member of the Mulerider family is one of more than 1,400 whose life could be saved.

The stem cell/bone marrow registry drive is scheduled for 9AM - 3:30PM on February 14 and 15 in the Reynolds Center Rotunda and the SAU Baptist Collegiate Ministry. For more information, contact Dr. Becky Parnell at (870)235-4365 or at bbparnell@saumag.edu.

The SAU BSN students initially behind the project are Renee Langley, Tabitha Elliott and Courtney Owens. Parnell explained that while attending the Arkansas Student Nurses’ Association annual meeting in Little Rock, the students were introduced to the need for bone marrow donors. They even registered to be possible donors themselves. She said they realized this project was a perfect example of how nurses can impact the care of people outside the normal “hospitalized patient.”

“They recognized how many people this could potentially impact and wanted to recruit more people (to register),” said Parnell. “I have seen the bone marrow process – it is truly a life-saving intervention for many people that are devastated by leukemia.”

When Parnell began promoting the registry event on campus, it was brought to her attention that the daughter of Magnolia native, 1984 SAU alum and Board of Governors Chair Beth Galway, Sydney, is suffering with acute myeloid leukemia and in dire need of a bone marrow transplant.

Southern Arkansas University
Southern Arkansas University

“When Sydney was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, the doctors told us that Sydney’s only cure would come from a bone marrow transplant. The doctors were, and are, confident of the success of her treatment due to the fact that she has a high chance to find a perfect bone marrow donor,” said Galway.

Her increased chance of finding a match, Galway explained, is simply because she is a Caucasian female – which has one of the highest bone marrow donor rates. She has a 97% chance to find a donor.

“Of course, the first donor they looked at was her sister. A sibling has only a 25% chance to be a match; a parent even less. Sydney’s sister was not a match,” said Galway.

Donor matches are generally based on race. With today’s diverse community, the need for bone marrow donors from minority and mixed race groups is high. An African American patient has only a 66% chance to find a match.

“The doctors and nurses that I have talked to indicate that the need is huge for African Americans as well as donors from India,” said Galway.

She said that the treatment for Sydney, who is a sophomore in college, is now in phase 3. Her next step is a bone marrow transplant.

“We hope to have a perfect match for her and pray that the donor will be willing to do all that is necessary for providing the blood or bone marrow needed for the transplant,” said Galway.

The drive is being sponsored by SAU’s Department of Nursing and University Health Services. Junior and senior BSN students will also be assisting in the bone marrow drive as a professional development activity.

Becoming a member of a stem cell/bone marrow registry only requires that you provide a swab of the cells inside your cheek. To register is a painless and fast way to possibly save a life.

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