When TRU baseball pitching coach Alex Reid’s step-sister was diagnosed with leukemia, she received life-saving stem cell treatment from a European donor.
“My sister was only 30 years old. It came out of nowhere. Her blood brother wasn’t a close enough match, so she was actually a match with somebody – I think it was in the Ukraine,” Reid said.
Watching his step-sister’s recovery inspired Reid to raise awareness about stem cell donation, leading to TRU’s biggest ever OneMatch stem cell swabbing event last year.
“I thought it would be a good time to try and bring awareness and hopefully be able to save some people’s lives because now, a year later, she’s 100 per cent healthy because she found a stem cell match,” Reid said.
“We had 350 people come out last year. There was a lineup out the door,” he said.
Reid hopes to beat the success of last year’s event with another OneMatch drive on Wednesday, March 9.
“I would love to make it bigger than last year,” he said. “It was absolutely incredible, the amount of response we had from the athletes and students at TRU.”
However, unlike donating blood, the same people cannot register again, since they’re already in the registry.
“The people that came last year can’t come this year. Once you’re in, you’re in,” Reid said.
“Last year most of the people who were coming were people connected to TRU athletics somehow. We didn’t get tons of international students or people outside of the Kamloops community, so I’m really trying to hit that demographic,” he said.
Reid said that the swabbing process is easy and non-invasive.
“All they do is swab all four sections of your cheeks and that’s it, you’re done. If you ever become a match, you’ll get contacted down the road,” he said.
Reid said he hoped the event would make people more knowledgeable about stem cell donation. “Everyone knows about blood drives and blood donations, but no one really knows about stem cells.”
“Stem cells are the next thing that can really save people’s lives,” he said.
“My sister went from being super sick with leukemia…now she’s taking her daughters to school and living at home and everything’s 100 per cent normal.”
The OneMatch swabbing event is for any person between the ages of 17 and 35.
The event will be held on March 9 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the second floor of the Tournament Capital Centre.
The third-year TRU nursing students have also partnered with OneMatch for a stem cell network drive on Tuesday, March 8. That event will be held in Old Main from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.