Blood, bone marrow drive slated for Seward

Posted: Friday, April 07, 2000

The Kenai Peninsula chapter of Blood Bank of Alaska is taking its show on the road Saturday.

This trip will feature a new addition to the Blood Bank's act.

The blood bank will be in Seward for a combined blood and bone marrow drive at the Westley Rehab Center on First Avenue from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. There will be a pancake breakfast for donors at the center as well.

While the group's employees pack all their equipment into their cars to collect blood from out-of-the-way places all over the peninsula roughly twice a month, this is the first time they will be collecting bone marrow donors at the same time.

Suzie Kendrick, the blood bank's manager, said staff will be signing up volunteers for the National Bone Marrow Program, which matches up potential donors with patients in need of marrow transplants.

Kendrick said people most commonly need marrow transplants after undergoing radiation or chemotherapy for cancer. Certain diseases -- including some types of cancer -- interfere with the bone marrow and the production of blood.

Kendrick said the program began in 1987 and has matched up donors and recipients for 7,300 transplants out of the roughly 700,000 people who registered for transplants.

"It's difficult to find a good match," Kendrick said. "We need lots and lots of people on the registry."

Kendrick said there is a cost to becoming a marrow donor, but the Seward Rotary Club raised money to defray that cost for everybody interested in signing up Saturday.

"There is a one-time $50 charge associated with getting on the registry," she said. "The Rotarians have raised enough money to pay for anyone. As much time as I've got to draw, they've got the funds to pay for. Seward is extremely lucky."

To become bone marrow donors, people must answer a fairly lengthy questionnaire about their personal medical history and have two tubes of blood drawn for typing purposes.

Usually, Kendrick said, someone is already giving blood when they sign up for the program, so it is easy to simply take extra vials.

"It's a real good mesh when you're doing the two programs together," she said.

Kendrick said the center in Soldotna strives to have bone marrow donor drives four times a year and collects names of interested people year round.

She also said that although the likelihood of being called to donate marrow may be slim, people are sure to help others by donating blood.

"I can guarantee you that if you're giving blood, your blood is going to help," she said.

The blood bank is located in the Blazy Mall in Soldotna and is open Tuesdays through Fridays, noon to 5:15 p.m., and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Appointments are encouraged, but not required.

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