Warnick advocating for world record bone marrow registry

CLAUDIA HALL/THE ARKA TECH: Warnick is hoping to save lives with the bone marrow registry.
CLAUDIA HALL/THE ARKA TECH: Warnick is hoping to save lives with the bone marrow registry.

Dr. Jason Warnick, associate professor of psychology, has partnered with Dr. Julie Mikles-Schluterman to organize a record-breaking bone marrow drive.

A year ago, Warnick said he would have never guessed this would be happening. When working on a book project, he asked a well-known researcher to write the forward for it. She agreed, to his surprise. Three months into the project, she backed out. She had a reoccurrence of leukemia. Warnick said he didn’t understand the depth of the situation.

“I asked why they didn’t do a bone marrow transplant. In my ignorance, I thought this was something like the Red Cross does, like they have banks of this stuff,” Warnick said.

The researcher had been looking for a match for 11 years but never found one. She died within six months.

“It was one of the most helpless feelings a family could experience,” Warnick. This sparked Warnick’s passion.

He began to research about bone marrow. With blood, there are only a handful of types. But with bone marrow, there are millions. When searching for a donor, patients have to have a perfect match.

Upon this revelation, Warnick wanted to organize a bone marrow drive to say he helped with the cause.

“I looked up ‘bone marrow drive,’ and the first picture that popped up was of a backyard barbeque. There was a person holding a turkey leg and another with a cheek swab in his mouth,” Warnick said. “It wasn’t what I thought a bone marrow drive would look like.”

They call these events “swabbing parties.”

Warnick contacted Be the Match, a bone marrow registry, and it provided training and supplies for free. It suggested he start a chapter on campus, which was also free. There was no agenda — he could set his own goals.

“I couldn’t believe how easy it was,” Warnick said.

Warnick explained the process of donating bone marrow has changed.

When people hear about bone marrow donations, they automatically are scared. Unlike the past, bone marrow procedures are now spread out over a week. Seventy percent who donate go in for five days. The first four days, the donor receives a shot to boost his stem cell count. The fifth day, he undergoes a dialysis procedure with light sedation, Warnick said.

“It’s turned a major medical procedure to more or less an inconvenience,” Warnick said. “I’ve seen people go back to work and school the very next day.”

When planning this event, Warnick had no idea how big it would become. Mikles-Schluterman suggested breaking the world record for bone marrow registries. The current record is 2,976 people, which was in 2012 at a marathon in Germany. Warnick hopes to register at least 3,000.

Warnick contacted Be the Match again. They told Warnick that if he could get the support, they would provide the supplies. He contacted the dean of his department and of the school, and everyone was on board. There was immediately a team in place.

“From students all the way up to the board of trustees, everyone’s been on board,” Warnick said. “It speaks volumes that this is the centerpiece of that week. It’s heartwarming to see that.”

The bone marrow drive is a 24- hour event. It begins at 9 p.m. on April 14 and continues overnight until 9 p.m. the next day. It is no coincidence the drive is during the president’s inauguration week. Dr. David Ward, associate professor of psychology, had the idea and it was approved.

Every hour or two there is a change of events, such as a blacklight dance party, yoga, 3 a.m. donuts and selfies with the president.

For those who don’t want to participate in events, there are mobile booths to register at. Everyone who signs up will get a free t-shirt and a pass to go to all of the activities.

According to Warnick, education is the most important part of this event. Anyone who plays a role in this becomes the voice of every person who is struggling.

Breaking the record is important to Warnick, but the main goal is to save lives. Though only one out of every 500 participants will be contacted for a donation, that is one live saved.

“If we get 3,000 people to sign up, we save six lives,” Warnick said. “We can say that Arkansas Tech literally saved six lives during the president’s inauguration.”

Claudia Young
About Claudia Young 58 Articles
Claudia Young was the Editor-in-Chief of The Arka Tech (2015-2016)

1 Comment

  1. This is a great thing for tech to do. However, as someone who donated last June I can say that the donation process does not treat everyone the same, and people need to be aware of this before registering. It takes nothing to register, but to go through with it is a much bigger deal than you might imagine. It is mentally and physically exhausting.

    Here is a quick rundown of how it went for me. As I said earlier though it is different for everyone. Typically it is painless for girls where as more often than not the guys experience tremendous pain. None of the medical professionals I dealt with could explain why, just that that’s how it went. Anyways, I was given 2 shots once a day and by day 3 could hardly walk due to the pain. My bones ached from my waist down and I took muscle relaxers to sleep. The fourth day I received my shots that morning and flew to Texas that afternoon for my donation the next day. The fifth day I woke up early and headed to the donation center where I received my final day of shots before they hooked me to the machine mentioned in the article, that is as stated basically a dialysis machine. It was roughly a six hour process from start to finish. After the donation it was amazing how much of the pain was gone, but it was about a week and a half before I truly felt back to normal. I think that covers the physically exhausting part.

    The mentally exhausting part was the hardest for me. Last year after getting the call I was someone’s match I let my professors know I may have to miss some class for the donation. A couple thought it was great while a couple to my surprise pointed out that the dates I told them I would miss were test dates and I wouldn’t be allowed to make them up. This was a big deal and I hope all professors are more informed on this. So I asked to move the donation and luckily they were able to work with me even though that’s not always the case. So as I sit in class that semester it was hard not to think everyday how my selfishness to do well in school could possibly end with the loss of someone’s life. That was hard, and then fast forward to post-donation. They make you wait a year before they let you know if the person receiving your stem cells lived or not. This means for 9 months I continue to wonder if MY stem cells were good enough, and I have another 3 months before I know. This is a lot to carry on the mind of a full-time student or anyone really.

    I’m sharing my experience not to persuade students not to donate, but to let them see a side that is usually hidden by misleading statements that everyone is “back to work the next day”. So please don’t take my story the wrong way. If I had to do it again tomorrow I would in a heartbeat. My family has been burdened with cancer just like many others which is why I swabbed in the first place, and if a loved one ever needs a donation I hope there is a match. Who knows, this drive could find that match! I just want people to know what a big deal it truly is. If you register and are a match and decline you have potentially let someone die you could have saved. So please if you register do it because you want to, not for some bonus points your teacher might offer.

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