Bone marrow drive searches for donors
Two-year-old Owen Hogan suffers from aplastic anemia, an illness caused by diseased bone marrow, resulting in a deficiency of the white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets.
The Rutgers chapter of the Phi Sigma Sigma sorority hosted a bone marrow drive yesterday in their house on 21 Union St. in the hope of finding a match for Hogan, as well as finding a match for others in the process.
Christy Burns, a Rutgers graduate and alumna of Phi Sigma Sigma, said Hogan’s family has been looking for a match since August, after his disease suddenly returned in April.
This rare and serious condition left Hogan with low blood cell, hemoglobin and platelet counts, which makes him very susceptible to bleeding and infection, according to “Owen’s Story” on aheroforowen.com.
“When the bone marrow is damaged, people need blood transfusions and medications to reboot their systems, but if the medications don’t work they need to get a bone marrow transplant from someone,” said Burns, who is also Hogan’s cousin.
Hogan has been in the hospital most of the time since April after his white blood cell count went down to zero at times, she said. It should be around 500,000 for a normal child at that age.
At the drive, after swabbing people’s mouths, they transfer the DNA to a cotton swab to put in a national registry, Burns said. From the registry they can match donors’ HLA typing, which is a protein found on most cells in the body, with those who need a healthy match.
“We’ve had numerous tries, we’ve even had him on TV, he was just on ABC, but we haven’t been able to find a match,” Burns said. “Based on how diverse your background is, it’s harder to find a match because you have all these different nationalities coming together under one body.”
Burns has always been involved in the sorority said Emily Angstadt, a sister of Phi Sigma Sigma and a School of Arts and Sciences junior. So when she asked if the sisters could hold a bone marrow drive event at the house they were delighted to be able to help her out.
Another sister of Phi Sigma Sigma, Kayleigh Jagemann, said the drive was a way to help Burns in her tough time, especially after all her contribution to the sorority.
“We just want to show her as much support as we can and do anything we can to help especially after everything she has done for us,” said Jagemann, a Rutgers Business School sophomore.
Students who were not at the event can still make a difference. Bethematch.org is an online registry where anyone ages 18 to 44 can sign up for a free kit to be mailed to them, Burn said. The kit requires a DNA sample to be mailed back to add to the national registry, which identifies an HLA typing and a possible matchup.
Burns said Hogan loves dressing up like his dad Tim Hogan, who is a New York City firefighter, playing with his toys and his little brother.
“As of now, we know there is no available match for Owen, but we remain hopeful that in spreading the word, the registry will continue to grow, and a match for Owen will be found, ” Hogan said in an interview with Fox New York.