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Brandeis’ gift of life

By Albert Reiss

Section: Features

September 11, 2015

A campus ambassador for Gift of Life, Rebecca Siegel ’16 is committed to the fight against cancer.

This non-profit organization is “dedicated to saving lives and facilitating bone marrow and blood stem cell transplants for patients with leukemia, lymphoma and other blood-related diseases,” Siegel said.

One of Siegel’s duties is to participate in the first-ever World Marrow Donor Day on Saturday, Sept. 19. On this day, Rebecca and the rest of the 105 campus ambassadors from all over the country will swab the inside of people’s mouths with a cotton swab in order to identify bone marrow donors. This national bone marrow drive will involve students from Brandeis all the way to the University of Hawaii.

This is not Siegel’s first experience with Gift of Life. The senior, double majoring in biology and HSSP with a chemistry minor, first got involved with the organization at a summer camp several summers ago. “Ever since, I have been eagerly waiting for the phone call that I am a match for someone in need, and wanted to get more involved in the organization. I feel like the Campus Ambassador Program is a great way to get more involved in the organization,” said Siegel.

Siegel is also responsible for “educating the campus on the urgent need for stem cell donation, swabbing at least 1,000 students into the genetic registry and raising money to test the kits. Each kit costs $60 to genetically test, so the need for funding is also critical in saving patients’ lives.”

Among the reasons why the Campus Ambassador Program began was to recruit a large number of bone marrow donors between the ages of 18-24 because this age range is usually seen as the most useful in regard to bone marrow recruitment success. Once a match is found through the cotton swab, they will donate via a peripheral blood stem cell donation. This technique, which is non-surgical, involves blood being removed through a needle in one arm and then passed through a machine, which collects only the blood-forming cells. The remaining blood is then returned to the donor through a needle in the other arm.

According to Gift of Life Founder Jay Feinberg, “Hundreds of lives will be saved because of our Student Ambassadors and the drives they will be running during this academic year. We are so pleased to be able to kick this program off on the first-ever ‘World Marrow Donor Day.’”

“I decided to make a difference because I want to see the end of blood cancer and bone marrow cancer. I don’t want patients to ever have to hear, ‘We have the technology to save you, but we don’t have a genetic match for you.’ I want patients to live the longest life they possibly can with the highest quality possible,” Siegel said about choosing to volunteer.

To learn more about the Gift for Life, email Rebecca at rsiegel@brandeis.edu or meet her in person at the Event in the Tent on Saturday, Sept. 19. As Siegel said, “Let’s fight cancer! It seriously only takes 60 seconds!”

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