NIU employee to help bone marrow drive

By Brenden Walz

An NIU employee, whose son received a bone marrow transplant after a search, has decided to help those in need of a transplant.

NIU employee Bradley Besonen will join with several NIU offices and organizations for a bone marrow drive for medical patients of minority backgrounds.

The drive will be held Feb. 19 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Holmes Student Center’s Heritage Room.

The goal of the program is to expand the number of African, Asian, Latino and Native American donors.

Besonen’s interest in getting more minority donors began when his then 3 year old son, Eric, needed a bone marrow doner after being diagnosed with leukemia in March 1991.

Leukemia is a disease characterized by an excessive number of white blood cells.

After a search for a donor was conducted, a matching donor was found and Eric entered the hospital for treatment on his fourth birthday, Nov. 11, 1991.

Although he is still recovering, the treatments have had a positive result on Eric’s leukemia.

Besonen’s personal experience of trying to find a bone marrow donor for his son educated him to the reality facing minority patients in need of donors—there are not very many.

Mary Bowden, the donor center coordinator at the Northern Illinois Blood Bank in Rockford, said the main barrier to getting minority donors is cost. NIBB coordinates the search for new bone marrow donors along with other centers across the country.

“The problem is cost,” Bowden said. “Testing for donors is precise but expensive.”

To overcome the cost of testing and finding donors, the federal government offers grants through federal agencies, such as the U.S. Navy.

People who sign up to be donors during the drive will not have to pay a fee to become a donor.

If they wanted to sign up for the national registry and pay the fee to defray the cost for someone who can’t pay, the cost is $75,” Bowden said.

According to figures provided by Bowden, only 61,753 of the 467,139 donors listed in the National Marrow Donor Program’s registry were American minorities as of Dec. 15, 1991.

Bowden said the best chance a patient has of finding a matched marrow donor is from a person of the same race.

Among the NIU organizations participating in the drive are the Organization of Latin American Students, the Center for Black Studies and Alpha Psi Lambda, the Latino honor society.