Texas State radiation therapy students traveled to the University of Texas – Pan America last weekend to collect enough bone marrow registrations to save the lives of 1,613 cancer patients.
The Kathy Soliz Texas State Radiation Therapy Outreach Program set up tables in prime locations around the campus on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. They asked passing students if they had five minutes to save a life. On the first day, the program exceeded 600 registrations, their target number for the whole trip.
Testing for a bone marrow match includes filling out a form and swabbing the inside of the cheek with a Q-tip. Donors can be called at anytime during their lives to save a life.
The program is named after Kathy Soliz, who fought leukemia for 10 years before losing her battle with cancer approximately one year ago. As a Hispanic, she only had about a one in 600,000 chance to find a bone marrow match. Soliz had two matches, but both donors declined the request for bone marrow.
Ronnie Lozano, chair of the radiation therapy program, was inspired by Soliz’s story and decided to help raise awareness for donating bone marrow. Texas State officials chose to partner with UTPA because the university is 89 percent Hispanic. Minorities have a lower chance of finding a match than Caucasians. A college campus also holds thousands of people who are unrelated and have younger stem cells.
Graciela Sandoval, doctoral student, said they had a good problem because they ran out of t-shirts and forms the first day from so many students registering. The student recreation center gave Texas State radiation therapy students extra t-shirts to give out.
“The fact that they’re collecting them and people are registering — that’s hope for somebody,” said Ricardo Soliz, assistant principal at San Marcos High School and father of the late Kathy Soliz.
Program officials are planning to travel to different minority schools each year for a bone marrow drive. Next spring the program plans to travel to a primarily African-American population campus.
“The idea is to make a difference in the statistic numbers for all minorities,” Lozano said.
The radiation therapy program has had bone marrow drives on the Texas State campus for the past four years, and there will be another in March.
Sandoval said the program’s purpose is to educate students on bone marrow donor donation.
“If you’re not educated about the importance of registering for the bone marrow or giving tissue samples or blood products, those can be deterrents in saving the lives of people,” said Soliz.