“No thank you, I don’t want to join the national marrow donor program today. If you register, aren’t you forced to undergo an invasive, expensive surgery to save a stranger? I don’t want to risk my own health for someone else’s.”
It's shocking that people in our country have that mindset, let alone have the courage to say those thoughts out loud, right?
Just simply registering does not guarantee that you’ll match a patient and have to go through the donation process. Even if you do match a patient and decide to go through the transplant process, the National Marrow Donor Program pays for the medical expenses for you, and there are several new non-invasive procedures to extract bone marrow, including Peripheral Blood Stem Cell (PBSC) transplant. Those are the facts, but the reality is that not many people in our community know these facts.
“Be the Match” has worked very hard to develop innovative ways to educate the public on this medical issue. But is it enough? Can education change how generously people act toward strangers? Will knowing that the bone marrow transplant process is safe, inexpensive and noninvasive encourage people to donate? While I would hope that just the idea of saving anyone’s life would give people the urge to help, this information only would increase that urge.
This specific issue I’ve encountered while working at “Be the Match” made me aware of the huge need to educate our public about health. Health education will help save more lives and should be emphasized just as much as medical and clinical research. By learning about these diseases, about the need for people to donate bone marrow and about the shocking number of patients in need of life-changing transplants, the public should be alarmed and feel the urge to help. Hopefully if the field of public health keeps advancing, people like me working at these public health foundations will not be encountering people who refuse even to be educated.
Parikh is currently a Public Health Science major at the University of California, Irvine who has been interning for the "Be the Match" Registry in Southern California.