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Club Gymnastics To Host Bone Marrow Drive For THON Child

THON 2016 may be 10 months away, but the philanthropic efforts of clubs and organizations continue year-long for the Four Diamonds children. In one ambitious endeavor, Club Gymnastics will host a bone marrow drive this Tuesday and Wednesday at the HUB, hoping to find a match for its THON child, Emilia Dameshek.

In the summer of 2013, at nine-years-old, Emilia was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. She became Club Gymnastics’s THON child that fall, and the club has supported her through 14 cycles of chemotherapy and bone removal surgery. Emilia was ultimately considered cancer-free in March 2014.

“Emilia is the most positive, selfless, and outgoing person,” said Maggie Chan, a member of Club Gymnastics. “Her family is amazing and we are incredibly blessed to have been matched with them.”

Unfortunately, a recent routine blood test has shown that Emilia’s cancer is no longer subsided. Based on abnormalities found in the test, she was diagnosed with t-MDS (therapy-related Myelodysplastic Syndrome). According to Chan, this is a “secondary cancer that was a result of her original treatment, and which is now causing her body to reject her own bone marrow.”

However, the goal of finding a bone marrow transplant has proved more difficult than expected for the Dameshek family. Emilia’s brother was not tested as a match, and despite there being 22.5 million registered bone marrow donors in the public registry, Emilia has not matched a single one.

emilia dameshek
Emilia and her club family at THON 2015.

Now, Club Gymnastics is reaching out to the greater Penn State family for help. The club will host a Be The Match bone marrow drive to recruit donors and spread awareness this Tuesday and Wednesday, April 14 and 15, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The drive will occur in a reserved room on third floor HUB, and a table on the main floor will point participants in the right direction.

While more information about the process will be provided at the event, anyone who may be interested in donating bone marrow should know that both the application and donation processes have been widely misconstrued, and are simpler than you may think.

The application consists of simply providing basic information and swabbing your cheeks with a Q-tip. As for donation, there are two main methods: PBSC (peripheral blood stem cells), which is similar to donating plasma, and a marrow donation, where the patient is put under for the duration of the procedure, and marrow is extracted from the pelvis by means of a needle.

Though bone marrow donation may seem intimidating, most patients report the pain following procedure as nothing more than if they had slipped on ice and fallen — and any donation will be fundamental in the treatment and recovery of people like Emilia.

Club Gymnastics hopes that this drive will truly make an everlasting difference for Emilia. “Although her family remains very optimistic,” Chan said, “it is crucial that a bone marrow match is found for her.”

We hope that Emilia is able to find a match, and wish her all the best. FTK.

Photos provided by Club Gymnastics

About the Author

Jessica Myers

Jess graduated in May 2015, with a Bachelor of Arts with honors in English, and with two minors in Latin and Art History. When she says she's "shippin' up to Boston," she's not just singing the song -- she's actually attending Northeastern University this fall to pursue her master's degree. You can follow her shenanigans at her site, http://www.jessicarmyers.com.

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