Student pharmacist commits to bone marrow donation

Only 2% of nation belongs to Be The Match registry

Emily Wilson always knew she wanted to serve people. That’s why she chose to become a pharmacist. But she was launched to hero status when she became a bone marrow donor this past March.

When Wilson joined the Be The Match registry, she knew the chances of actually being a match for someone were pretty slim at 1%. So when she received a phone call 2 years later informing her that she was a bone marrow match for a 9-year-old boy diagnosed with leukemia, she was ready to keep her commitment.

The phone call couldn’t have come at a busier time. As a student pharmacist at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) College of Pharmacy, Wilson’s semester was pretty full with courses, electives, projects, and teams. To make matters more complicated, due her patient’s condition, her donation date was pushed back twice. But she never wavered on her decision.

Because of her patient’s condition, Wilson’s donation was more invasive than most, harvesting bone marrow from her back. Although the process didn’t hurt, she was very anemic after the procedure. But because Be The Match was always thinking of the donor, 2 weeks before her bone marrow donation, she had a unit of her own blood set aside to help with the recovery. “There was even a care package next to my bed when I woke up after the procedure,” Wilson recalled.

Wilson is a strong advocate for organ donation (her mother was on a kidney transplant waiting list for 8 years), and believes education is the way to improve the numbers. “It’s very safe to be a donor,” Wilson said. “Precautions are taken to save the donor from infections, tests are regulated, etc.”

Here are the numbers: only 2% of the population is in the national registry for bone marrow. Only 30% of patients are matched with a family member; the rest must hope to be matched with a stranger. On average, about 7,500 people are searching the national registry for an unrelated donor.

Even if an individual isn’t matched, they can still make a difference in someone’s life by donating financially or donating time as a volunteer or advocate. Maybe not a match, but still a hero.