Cancer survivor Noah Olaff leads blood stem cell donor event, feature by Contributor Lea Hippauf

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Noah Oloff, a sophomore at Rocky Mountain College and a Leukemia survivor, is helping Dynamic Kernel Module Support (DKMS) organize a blood stem cell donor registration event on Nov. 15th from 11:30am till 4pm.

The RMC physician assistant masters program is also helping run the event. Typically, donor registration would cost around $65 per person. However, Oloff and his volunteers did fundraising to make donation free.

Every three minutes someone in the U.S. gets diagnosed with blood cancer, and for some, a blood stem cell donation is the only chance of survival.

Oloff was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2010, three months before graduating from high school. Initial tests showed that he needed a rather simple treatment. This remained the case until the cancer mutated. Oloff then missed his high school graduation while in the hospital. Then he was driven to Salt Lake City to undergo a stem cell transplant. Fortunately, his younger sister was a stem cell match. In August, after undergoing a week of extreme radiation and chemotherapy, Oloff was given a stem cell transplant.

Since the transplant, Oloff has fought through numerous side effects, including a double hip replacement. The leukemia has not been detected in blood tests for approximately three years. He is now pursuing an environmental science degree at Rocky.

DKMS is a global organization that started in Germany in 1991. Dr. Peter Harf and Dr. Gerhard Ehninger founded DKMS in honor of Dr. Harf’s wife who died of blood cancer.

DKMS strives to raise awareness and encourages people to take action in their communities and register for stem cell donation. It has grown and become the world’s largest stem cell donor center with more than 6.5 million potential donors.

The process of a blood stem cell donor registration is relatively easy. First, potential donors go through a health screening to spot any serious diseases. Then, a cheek swab sample is taken. The sample is tested and matched with a potential cancer patient. If a match is found, the donor will consult with a doctor and can then decide whether they want to donate.

A blood stem cell transplant replaces a patient’s unhealthy blood stem cells with healthy ones from a donor. Before the transplant, the patient undergoes chemotherapy to destroy all the diseased cells. The donated cells that are infused into the patient’s body move through the bloodstream into the bone marrow, where they begin to grow and produce new healthy blood cells.

DKMS compensates donors for missed school or work. It also pays for a donor’s travel expenses. Oloff said “donating is a great opportunity for you to get paid for saving a life.”

At any given time, approximately 14,000 people in the U.S. are waiting for a blood stem cell donation. Only 30 percent of blood cancer patients find a match in their family. It is important for people to take action and help those in need of a donation.

The first step takes no more than a cheek swab. After a stem cell donation, people commonly have u like symptoms for a few days. This is a small price to pay compared to the opportunity of saving a life. Contact Oloff for more information on the event.

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