GROTON, Conn.- According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, each year approximately 18,000 people are diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses where a bone marrow transplant from a matched donor is their best option for treatment.
To help increase the nation-wide pool of potential bone marrow donors for sick patients, Naval Submarine Base (SUBASE) New London hosted a drive for personnel and their family members to enter the national registry, Aug. 24-28.
Electronics Technician (Nuclear) 1st Class Philip Hewitt, SUBASE Nuclear Regional Maintenance Department, organized the event in cooperation with the C.W. Bill Young Department of Defense Marrow Donor Program.
Hewitt said the drive was a way to give back to the community and provide a lifesaving gift for someone in dire need of it.
“There’s cancer and rare blood diseases that affect so many people,” said Hewitt. “Everyone knows at least one person that can benefit from [the donor program] and it’s a way that the command is showing that we’re giving back and that we care about people in more than just a military fashion.”
Hewitt also spoke about his personnel connection to the donor program.
“In the past my sister actually did the peripheral stem blood cell treatment to donate stem cells to one of our lifelong friends who unfortunately lost her fight to leukemia, but my sister was able to go through and help make it a little easier toward the end,” said Hewitt.
Along with spreading awareness about the donor program, Hewitt wanted personnel to know how the actual donation process has advanced over the years.
“A lot of people don’t understand that a majority of donations nowadays are through peripheral blood stem cell treatment which is different than the traditional bone tap and it’s a quicker turnaround and a little less impactful on your health and it still provides just as much good to the community,“ said Hewitt.
Hospitalman Hali Elkin, Naval Branch Health Clinic Groton, was also on hand to help get individuals registered for the program and expressed her gratitude to all the people who participated.
“We appreciate all the help and all the people that have signed up to register with the drive and we hope that we can save lives,” said Elkin.
One hundred seven SUBASE New London personnel were submitted for the national bone marrow registry during the weeklong event.
To learn more about the C.W. Bill Young Department of Defense Marrow Donor Program, visit www.salutetolife.org.