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The Real World Impact of Virtual Donor Drives

Photo: Courtesy of Josh Goldeman

For many patients suffering from a blood cancer or a blood disorder, the only chance of survival is receiving a bone marrow transplant. Even more harrowing, for 70 percent of those patients the only hope is receiving a transplant from a complete stranger. That complete stranger could be from just minutes away to miles apart, from a different country to an entirely different continent. However, before this molecular match can be made that complete stranger must take an important, but simple step: registering as a potential bone marrow donor. Having nowhere to sign up near you is no longer a problem. Welcome to the future of charitable giving: virtual donor drives.

Turning to the digital space

As an interactive platform, the virtual donor drive is being initiated by individuals, sports organizations and major companies to engage with a diverse and widespread audience and encourage participation in the national registry.

“The Virtual Donor Drive is an online platform that helps individuals and organizations to mobilize their network of friends, family and colleagues to join the bone marrow registry and increase the diverse pool of bone marrow donors,” says Pushpa Nair, Senior Digital Communications Manager at DKMS. “The benefit of an online drive is the sheer convenience of being able to launch a movement with a potentially international impact from wherever you are at this very moment. It’s easy, simple and can mean a world of difference to those in need.”

Musical champions

Two popular music groups have turned to this innovative platform to tap into their passionate, far flung fan bases to encourage them to join the donor pool and register to become a lifesaver. O.A.R. and GWAR both work with Love Hope Strength, a partner organization of DKMS with the mission to save more lives one concert at time.

American rock band O.A.R has been incorporating swabbing at their concerts for over 10 years, leading to over 1200 new registrants and four lives saved directly through their efforts. Now they’ve taken their effort online in an attempt to sign up more donors via their virtual donor drives.

“It couldn’t be easier,” said Chris Culos, band member of O.A.R. “The kit comes to your house, just swab the inside of your cheeks, send it back and you will be on the list.”

Close to home

A popular shock rock band, GWAR’s endeavors have been fueled by the recent and indelible impact that blood cancer has had on the group. Lead guitarist Michael Derks, better known by his stage alias BälSäc the Jaws ‘o Death, was recently diagnosed with myelofibrosis, a disease that causes scarring inside of the bones and interferes with the marrow’s ability to produce blood cells.

Over the summer, Derks was experiencing fatigue and weakness during the band’s participation in the 2017 Vans Warped Tour. He was taken to the hospital and treated for severe anemia. After extensive testing and series of blood transfusions, his hemoglobin levels continued to fall to dangerous levels. After further tests, doctors informed Derks of his diagnosis and gave him a frank assessment of what to expect: without a bone marrow transplant, Derks was facing a likely survival of only 3-5 years.

“I have teamed up with the incredible people at Love Hope Strength and DKMS to offer a way for my friends and fans to not only help me, but all of the thousands of people out there in need of a bone marrow transplant,” Derk shares. “We are running a virtual drive to find donors to join the international registry of people willing to save a stranger’s life.”

Every person you help register could be someone’s lifesaving match and every dollar you raise supports a lifesaving mission.

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