"Be the Match"

Marrow Donor Registry Drive

KENNESAW, Ga. (Jan. 23, 2014) – It’s been almost a week since Andreas Economopoulos received a potentially life saving bone marrow transplant. The campus community came together Jan. 22 in honor of Andreas, the son of former Kennesaw State professors Marj and Vassilis Economopoulos, to host a marrow donor registry drive.

More than 120 people were added to the donor registry as a result of the “Be the Match” registry drive.

“We had people waiting before we even opened the doors, which was a nice surprise,” said Sherry Grable, director of the Center for Health Promotion and Wellness.

Just a few short months ago, Andreas was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, after complaining of a shortness of breath.

“He was tired, and couldn’t catch his breath after walking up a flight of stairs, which was very unusual because he’s an athlete,” his mother, Marj, said at the event. “I told him to go to the doctor and get a B-12 shot.”

That seemingly simple trip to the doctor’s office ended with an ambulance ride to the hospital, where Andreas would spend the next five weeks.

“It was quite a shock,” Marj said. “Three months later, he has a match for a marrow transplant; it’s like a miracle.”

After Andreas’ diagnosis, friends reached out to the family offering to help. One of those offers came from one of Marj’s former colleagues, Nita Paris, professor of educational psychology in the Bagwell College of Education. Though a match had already been found for Andreas, Paris suggested a campus marrow registry drive as a way to “pay it forward.”

Every four minutes, someone is diagnosed with a blood cancer. For thousands of patients with leukemia or other blood diseases like sickle cell anemia, a marrow transplant is their only hope.

Donors of diverse ethnic backgrounds are particularly needed on the registry, which was one reason junior exercise science major Amadi Cooper participated in the marrow registry drive.

“What really encouraged me was the extra credit for my nutrition class,” Cooper said. “Also, cancer has been in my family, so I’m all for helping cure cancer.”

-- By Jennifer Hafer