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Students get swabbed to find blood marrow donors

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If you wanted to work out last week, you had to first consider getting swabbed.

Upon entering the Ping Center between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday last week, anyone looking to exercise was greeted by a horde of students wearing “Got Swabbed?” T-shirts. They were ushered toward a table covered in red wristbands, stickers, information packets and, of course, swabs.

“We do a swab drive, which means you basically just take a couple of minutes to swab your cheeks,” Mikel Zeidenstein, a junior studying economics, said. He got involved in the campaign after getting swabbed as a freshman.

Upon getting “swabbed,” a participator has their information entered into a national database of potential bone marrow recipients. If a match is made, the donor can participate in a bone marrow transplant.

“I have a friend who did it, and was a match, which was really incredible. He got to save a 40-year-old woman’s life,” Zeidenstein said.

Hillel, a Jewish student organization on campus, partnered this year with Delete Blood Cancer to collect student samples. According to Hillel’s website, Ohio University leads the nation in campus bone marrow drives, securing the largest number of swabs from participants 18 to 26 years old.

Hillel previously partnered with Gift of Life Marrow Foundation, another foundation dedicated to curing blood cancer and other diseases. Shosana Blair, a fifth-year senior studying theater, is the campus CEO of Gift of Life.

I think the reason Ohio University is number one in number of drives run, number of swabs collected, number of matches made and number of donations is because we typically have a student in charge,” Blair said.

Blair said the Got Swabbed campaign helps to fulfill the Tikkun Olam aspect of Judaism, which translates to “repairing the world.”

“By working tirelessly to grow the international bone marrow registry and saving lives of patients with blood cancers and genetic disorders by matching them up with potential blood stem cell or bone marrow donors, we are attempting to help rid the world of cancer,” Blair said.

Madison Yee, a campus ambassador for Gift of Life, said Hillel strategically picked a new organization to be the face of Got Swabbed. They chose Delete Blood Cancer as its new recipient, as it believed this would generate new interest.

“It’s important to note that both Gift of Life and Delete Blood Cancer compile all of their swabs and data in the same database, so that essentially someone who swabs with Gift of Life could help someone registered with Delete Blood Cancer,” Yee said. “There is virtually little to no competition between the various bone marrow foundations in the U.S.”

One student who was inspired to get involved with the drive is Gray Levine, a freshman studying business administration. After being put on probation earlier this academic year, Levine had to complete five service hours on campus.

“I slacked off and procrastinated really hard and didn’t have anything done the day before the deadline,” Levine said. “I was super desperate and went to Hillel last-minute, met Rabbi Leshaw, heard about the cause, loved it from the start and took off from there.”

Levine has been active both online and offline to support the cause, promoting it across various Facebook groups and other social media.

“I guess my best experience has just been seeing how willing and happy people are to be a part of the movement and how any person we swab has a chance to save a life.”

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