~si_StemCells, Bryson

The students in the nursing and dental hygiene programs at Algonquin have completed a project to increase the pool of stem cell donors across Canada.

More than 1,000 people at any one time are waiting for the second chance of a stem cell donation and just a simple mouth swab can help you save a life. The program hosted the Get Swabbed event at the ACCE building Nov 24.

“This is an event where we’re trying to raise awareness and at the same time register people,” said Mercedes Nash, 21, a student in the nursing program.

The two programs have worked collaboratively on the Get Swabbed project since the beginning of the semester. Stem cells can help in the fight against immune system and metabolic orders and diseases like leukemia.

“We’ve been doing promotion, different activities, planning to get the word out around the college in preparation for this day,” said Nash. This is the second year the two programs have worked together to add to the stem cells registry.

“They’ve been doing all the pre-work for us so we’re really happy and excited to continue that collaboration,” said Jennifer Heale, Territory Manager for the Canadian Blood Services.

They hope the exposure will add some specific people to the available donors across Canada. “Currently our registry is not representative of the diversity of Canada, which means that we have a challenge finding matches for some of our patients at this time,” said Heale. “We’re specifically looking for males because males have higher stem cell count so they’re strongly encouraged to become donors. It’s better for patient outcomes.”

Should a participant be selected as a donor, they are flown to the patient’s city. There are two ways to donate stems cell. The first is a kind of blood infusion, very similar to kidney dialysis.

The other kind is a bone marrow transplant that is done under general anesthetic.

Early in the event, Nash was asked if she was going to swab and join the registry. “I have not yet, but I am going to,” she said. “This is something that I believe firmly about and it’s a good thing to do. Who would say no to saving a life?”