DMKS Drive At Cleveland High School

DMKS Drive At Cleveland High School

Clarion photo DKMS US

Cleveland High School hosted the first DKMS drive in the front lobby on Friday, April 21. The Clarion reached out to the drive’s organizers, seniors Liam Taylor and Emily Welch, to find out more about the drive, what it is and how it went.

Clarion: “How is the drive going, and could you tell us a little bit about what it is?”

Taylor: “Yeah, so DKMS (‘Deutsche Knochenmarkspenderdatei’, or German Bone Marrow Donor Center) is a German nonprofit that deals with this thing called the registry. The registry is an international list of names, and then their DNA. This is used for patients who have blood cancer, or other blood diseases such as sickle cell anemia. If things like radiation therapy doesn’t work, chemotherapy doesn’t work, their last option could be to get a stem cell or bone marrow transplant, then the registry is what they go to. This is because to receive a bone marrow or stem cell transplant, you need that matching, or at least very close to matching DNA with someone. What we’re doing at this drive is just getting people’s DNA by taking a swab to the inside of their cheek for a minute, and then sending the swab off to get put in the list. So all you have to do to be eligible is be willing to go through a procedure sometime in the future. About one in every 400 people that sign up on the registry ever get contacted. You also have to be between 18 and 50 along with other minimum health requirements, but those are all somewhat basic, and most people qualify.”

Clarion? “What does this drive mean to you?”

Welch: “Liam, and I organized and ran the drive. We had a family friend that was diagnosed with leukemia, and found a match through DKMS. It saved her life. So now she’s been very vocal with this program and outreach and bringing awareness to it, because not very many people are actually aware of it. So even though we can only get 18 year olds here, and so that’s a very small population of the school. The key to the drive is really raising awareness early on. So people are aware that when they turn 18, this is something that they should get involved in, and that it’s available to them. We have friends all throughout Portland at different high schools, who are also connected to that same family friend and have been inspired by that and are working at their high schools to raise awareness all over the city. “

Clarion: “What would be a reason why someone might feel like they shouldn’t sign up? And how would you respond to those concerns?”

Taylor: “Yeah, so there’s lots of worries that people might have about signing up. Especially like a senior in high school, or someone in college, maybe you’re concerned about being on the registry for you’re on the list for like, upwards of 40 years. So if you sign up, when you’re 18,19 20, everybody gets kept on this list till you’re 55 to 60, depending on the country, so you could sign up and then 20 years down the road get contacted, and maybe you’re just not prepared for it at that time.”

Taylor: “However, what DKMS does is they really try to make this as accessible to you as possible. So if you get contacted, you’ll go to just a local doctor for a physical to make sure you’re still physically fit and healthy. And that’s, of course, going to be covered by DKMs. Then if you are found to be healthy and willing to go through with the procedure, you’re going to travel within the United States to a hospital, to have this procedure done to you. So that travel is going to be covered by DKMS. Not only the airfare, but also your room and board. You can even bring along a guest if you want all their expenses to be covered as well. Furthermore, if you’re going to miss any time for work, they will reimburse you for the amount of money you will have made. So they’ll pay you that much, and if you have kids, they will also cover childcare. So all of those concerns can be thrown out the window, because the DKMS really has a good system for it, they’ve got it covered.”

Taylor: “People are sometimes worried about needles or surgery, usually you get put under anesthesia before the operation. So you’re knocked out for an hour or two and then you’re on your way out of the hospital. You don’t have to have any extended hospital stay. And so you’re relatively ok. There can be some recovery time for this because, like, it’s a real surgery. I can’t speak to how much it hurts because it’s never happened to me. But this is something you’d want to look into. At the end of the day though, whichever method is used, it shouldn’t unnecessarily dissuade you, because you’re saving someone’s life. So at the end of the day, this is a person’s last chance of life and you are the person who can give that to him. You are a unique person that has your DNA matched with this other patient, and you can provide them that hope that they need.”

Clarion: “How is the drive going so far?”

Welch: “It’s been going way better than we thought it would actually. We can only test 18 year olds. So we were kind of like how many seniors are 18, and then how many of those seniors will be willing to do it. So we brought 60 supplies, so far, we only have three left, which is not what you’re expecting. So getting a bigger turnout than what was expected.”

Clarion: “Say you go down 20 years and you get a match and you feel like you cannot continue with the operation. Is there a possibility of opting out?”

Taylor: If you get contacted, you can opt out. It’s frowned upon if that’s your only reason going into signing up. You only want to sign up if you are willing to go through it because you’re giving someone hope. So you don’t want to have someone get that hope, and then lose it. The point of this drive is to give people the best chance they have at life. So that’s why you want to sign up. We really only need you if you’re willing to go through this, because that is how you’re going to make an impact.

Taylor and Welch wanted to stress the significance of the drive and how life changing this could be for somebody. With the need to match for transplants and the ability to to perform these life changing operations, they encourage everyone eligible to sign up. Taylor and Welch hope to get another drive out by the end of the year, or you can also sign up at