HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
The 49th Medical Group hosted Holloman Air Force Base, N.M.’s first ever Swab-Thru, a special drive-thru bone marrow donor registration event, April 20, 2017.
The event was held in the parking lot across from the MDG. Over 100 Airmen nestled their cars into the lot and registered with the “Salute to Life” program, to show their support for victims of cancer.
Master Sgt. Crystal Connelly, the 49th MDG Diagnostic and Therapeutics flight chief, was inspired to bring the program to Holloman after a member of her family fell ill.
“A few months ago, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, which is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow,” Connelly said. “At that time, I felt that I needed to do something to help. That is when I came across the ‘Salute to Life’ Department of Defense Bone Marrow Donor Program. This program is used to fight against blood and bone cancer, and can help treat or cure more than 50 diseases. The point of the Swab-Thru kickoff was to bring awareness and education about the program to team Holloman, in hopes to potentially save a life.”
Registration takes little to no time. Members are given a consent form, and are asked to swab the inside of their cheeks. The swabs are placed into an envelope and shipped back to the parent company, along with the form.
From there, the swabs and paperwork are processed, and members are entered into “Be the Match”, which is a national donor registry.
“When a patient requires a bone marrow or stem cell transplant, providers search the national registry for a donor," Connelly said. "If you are a preliminary match they will contact you to ask questions and conduct further blood testing. This process can take up to three months. If you are selected as the best match donor you will be transported to the patient’s location to make a donation.”
“Salute to Life” works solely with military personnel, their dependents, civilians and contract employees, Reservists, Coast Guard and National Guard members, to facilitate bone marrow and stem cell donations.
“Anyone in good health, between the ages of 18 and 60, who has base access, can register,” Connelly said. “There is specific guidance associated with this program that allows military members time away from duty if they are selected as a donor and ensures they have convalescent leave to recover. All information collected is entered into ‘Be the Match’. This program assists anyone in need of a bone marrow transplant, whether they be a military member, civilian, adult or child.”
This program is an opportunity for Holloman members who are looking to serve those in need, in a greater capacity.
“Programs like these helped save one of my family members all the way in El Salvador,” said Staff Sgt. Lisa Shurling, the 49th Logistics Readiness Squadron equipment management non-commissioned officer in charge. “The outreach in this program is huge. I am so adamant about getting the word out to as many members as possible. No one really knows that feeling of undying gratitude unless you are on the receiving end of this program. Becoming a donor not only affects the patient, it affects their entire family. You can literally save someone's life just by opening up your heart a little bit and giving without expecting something in return. Personally, I think that internal sense of accomplishment is much more fulfilling than anything of monetary value anyway.”
However, the decision to register should not be taken lightly.
“With this program it is important that registrants are committed,” Connelly said. “The last thing we want is to register members that are not truly willing to answer the call, when and if the time comes.”
Members who are interested in registering can stop by the MDG lab during duty hours.
The MDG will continue to host registration drives throughout the year, but would like for other groups, squadrons and flights to get involved and host events.