The gift of giving doesn’t have to be much, but all it took for U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific were four tiny swabs to help aid in the gift of life.
Service members and Department of Defense civilians from Camp Smith took part in a two-day bone marrow drive, here March 13 and 14.
Taking no more than five minutes out of their day, they participated in what may help another person live for many years to come.
In a maximum effort to reach as many people as possible, two sites were set up in high traffic areas to attract potential donors.
One stand was located in front of the Pollack Theater in the MARFORPAC building and the other across the street next to the food court in the PACOM building.
With no needles involved, MARFORPAC corpsman armed themselves with pens, information forms, four cotton swabs, and the will to help others.
“There are about 500 DoD personnel and families that need a bone marrow transplant,” said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Angelo Catindig, leading petty officer, battalion medical, Headquarters and Service Battalion, MARFORPAC. “All in all, our job is about supporting lives. So, we’re all about supporting events like these.”
In a short process, the participants filled out an information form, and using four swabs, took two self-samples from their upper gums and two from their lower gums. These swabs were then packaged in an envelope and shipped off to a lab in Washington D.C.
Catindig said once the samples get to the lab, each sample will be processed to see if any qualify as a potential donor match.
“Bone marrow cases can range from different types of genetic blood disorders to leukemia,” Catindig said. “There are a lot of things that go into finding out if a person can qualify.”
Catindig said only one out of 300 who register will get chosen to donate, and there are a lot of tests the samples must go through before donors can be looked at and screened.
He also said once a donor is chosen, they will go through extensive questions concerning the persons medical background and lifestyle.
“They look into your ethnic background, age and certain things you can’t have and if you do become a match, they will contact you and go more in depth into your medical history,” Catindig said.
Bone marrow is a soft tissue found in the hollow interior of bones and creates new blood cells for the body.
Individuals who are chosen to donate volunteer of their own will, said Catindig. Donors are flown to Washington D.C. and given lodging for a week during the time of the procedure at the expense of the U.S. Government.
“It’s a quick procedure and you’re up and walking around seeing the sites the same day,” said Catindig.
The marrow is extracted from the donors red marrow while under a general anesthetic and there is minor discomfort in the procedure.
One potential donor, Staff Sgt. Wendell Smith, maintenance chief, motor transportation, MARFORPAC, said he was on his way to medical when he was told they were having the drive and took it upon himself to stop and take part.
“I’ve donated blood in the past, but this is the first time I’ve been in this type of situation,” Smith said. “It’s for a great cause and gives me the chance to help someone else.”
Smith said it’s important for people to donate because the contributions can save lives and it’s important to help others in need.
“As military, we’re always trained to do the best and be there for everybody else and not care about ourselves,” Smith said. “And who knows, I might save somebody’s life someday.”
Smith’s said he felt outstanding and motivated to be part of the drive, but he wasn’t the only one.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher Z. Evans, information specialist, Joint Interagency Task Force West, said he had never donated bone marrow, but he saw the signs and thought it would be a good way to help out for a good cause.
“If you can help somebody out, you should do it,” Evans said. “It makes you feel good and for some of the diseases, it’s the only way to be cured.”
Catindig said it’s great to see people put others before themselves and participate in an event such as this.
He also said he thought they would have a really good turnout and was pleased with the final results.
In the two-day effort, service members and DoD civilians pulled together to collect 660 registered samples.