By Gabrielle Johnston
Their bright red shirts easy to spot and -- aided by megaphones -- their voices easy to hear, volunteers outside Baker University Center had just one question for passersby Wednesday: "Got Swabbed?"
Once inside, members of the Ohio University community clogged escalators and jostled to find a spot to fill out paperwork, drawn by sobering statistics about leukemia and stories about patients' desperate searches for bone marrow donor matches.
Coordinators of the university's first "Got Swabbed?'' drive say the event far surpassed their own expectations and existing records, with some 2,300 students, faculty and staff lining up to rinse, swab and potentially save a life.
By noon, junior journalism major Erica Cohen was optimistic that the day's goal of 1,300 would be reached. A relatively simple procedure consisting of 10-second swabs of the insides of each cheek, the initial test for potential bone marrow donors was a quick and easy way to boost possible numbers for the National Marrow Registry.
"I'm so excited for the many lives that will potentially be saved by our donors," Cohen said.
Anne Lombard, assistant vice president of student affairs and director of campus life, said the entire third floor was "abuzz all day long," with lines stretching past Student Affairs offices during most of the drive.
"I think it far surpassed everybody's expectations," said Lombard, who also took time to get swabbed.
The purpose of the drive was to find a bone marrow donor match for 16-year-old leukemia patient Amy Katz of Pittsburgh. Cohen joined up with Katz's cause after learning of a close friend's diagnosis with leukemia. She decided to bring the fight to Ohio University and organize "Got Swabbed?"
Co-sponsors for the event were Hillel, Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity, the Residents' Action Council and the Division of Student Affairs.
The president of Alpha Epsilon Pi, Max Resnick, a junior majoring in journalism and sociology, was among the drive's volunteers.
"If we can get enough swabs to possibly save this girl's life, then we've done something wonderful," Resnick said. "You couldn't ask for anything more. It's a chance to give back."
Potential donors expressed the same attitude.
Fresh from her cheek-swabbing, sophomore Sara Roberts said, "If I'm healthy, I should use that to help someone else."
"Got Swabbed?'' was only an initial test for potential donors. Swabs will be cataloged and marked for addition to the National Marrow Registry with the help of DKMS Americas, an offshoot of the world's largest donor center, DKMS in Germany. The American branch of the nonprofit supplied all of the materials necessary for Wednesday's drive.
"That makes us the largest bone marrow donor drive DKMS has ever held in the United States," Cohen said. "It also makes us the largest college bone marrow donor drive in history."
Amanda Nable, a representative from DKMS Americas, said the nonprofit was excited to come to Ohio University.
"I knew this would be an enormous drive," Nable said.
The chances of potential donors finding a match are very slim, making a diversely stocked registry a must. Matched donors usually come from the same ethnic and racial backgrounds.
"It's like finding a needle in a haystack," Cohen said. "And if you add more needles, you have more chances."
For more information on how to become a potential bone marrow donor, visit DKMS Americas' Web site.