LEBANON — The phone call in October came out of the blue for 22-year-old Albany resident Allie Spangler.
The second-year diagnostic imaging student at Linn-Benton Community College had forgotten that two years ago, she'd registered to become a bone marrow donor and had submitted a DNA swab with a nonprofit company called DKMS.
The 2014 West Albany High School graduate said she was inspired to become a marrow donor after her cousin did so several years ago. But donors must be at least 18 years of age. She registered as soon as she could.
“They called me at work at Good Samaritan in Corvallis and said I matched with a boy in Brazil and they needed my marrow soon,” she said.
Spangler said DKMS handled all of her travel costs to the Scripps Green Medical Center in San Diego, California, where she gave blood and was checked again to make certain she was the best match.
“It’s anonymous, but I know he is a boy with leukemia,” she said.
Three weeks later, on Nov. 1, Spangler and her mother, Roberta, were again flown to San Diego.
This time she underwent two blood draws and checked in for surgery after meeting with the medical staff that would perform the marrow draw.
“You lie on your stomach and they prep a spot on your lower back, actually along your pelvis,” she said. “They insert two needles. It took about 90 minutes and I didn’t even have stitches.”
Spangler stayed in the hospital overnight, but donors often go home the same day.
“I had some mild discomfort for three days and then nothing,” she said.
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Spangler said that surgery is needed in only about 25 percent of donations. The vast majority — about 75 percent — can be accomplished through a peripheral blood stem cells transplant, which is much like giving a blood donation.
For five days before the procedure, the donor is given injections of filgrastim, a medication that increases the number of blood-forming cells in the bloodstream. On donation day, blood is removed through a needle in the donor’s arm, passed through a machine that separates the blood-forming cells, and the remaining blood is returned to the donor through the other arm.
Spangler said her name will remain in the donor registry until she's 51, if she wishes. She can choose to remove her name at any time.
“I will do it again,” she said. “You know you might be saving someone’s life. In this case, I think about this young man growing up and having a family. It feels really good to do something like this and to know the impact it could have.”
Spangler said her family was surprised that she had registered as a donor, "but they were also very proud and supportive.”
She encourages others to follow in her footsteps and says registering is simple and painless.
“All it takes is a cheek swab,” Spangler said. “It’s called ‘Swabbing to Save Lives.’”
Spangler and other health care students at the LBCC Healthcare Occupations Center at the Samaritan Health Campus in Lebanon will host two day-long bone marrow registration events for the public, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan 15 and Jan. 17.
You don’t have to be a student. Just check in at the counter inside the main door.
“It will take about 10 to 15 minutes to register each person and to take their cheek swab,” Spangler said. “We will take care of registering the person and mailing the cheek swab.”
Spangler's goal is to register 150 people. Donors can be up to 61 years old, but most matches are made with donors from 18 to 45.
“People who don’t want to register are also encouraged to donate money to help defray expenses of the program,” Spangler said.
There are about 1 million bone marrow donors registered in the United States and 8 million worldwide. A person is diagnosed with blood cancer every three minutes.
Contact Linn County reporter Alex Paul at 541-812-6114.