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      African Americans encouraged to donate bone marrow

      By Lia Sestriclsestric@abcnews4.com

      CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Sharaiah Watson says she always wanted to register to be a bone marrow donor. As a nursing student, she saw dozens of patients who shared an urgent need. She realizes it could be a life or death situation.

      "My heart went out to them," she said. "I would love to be of help to someone else."

      Watson was one of the many people who came to the bone marrow donor drive called "Be The Match" held at MUSC Tuesday.

      The month of July is dedicated to recognizing bone marrow awareness and about the critical need for African American donors to join the registry.

      Patients usually find a donor match in someone with a similar ethnic background, South Carolina's National Marrow Donor Program account executive Meg Williams said.

      "There is such a small portion of minorities especially, African Americans on the registry," she said. "There is just a huge need, and we are pushing for as many people as possible."

      Only seven percent of the nation's 10 million registered potential bone marrow donors are African American.

      "There's a huge negative reputation to being a marrow donor and what it is. Everyone thinks it's very painful and very scary and that could turn anyone away."

      Williams says that is not the case, and in fact, the procedure commonly used in not as painful. She says it's now as easy as giving blood.

      "There's not a painful extensive surgery to be a donor anymore. The main way we do it, 80 percent of the time, is called a peripheral blood cell donation, and that's basically a unique blood donation."

      Becoming a donor is not difficult she said. People only need to fill out a health questionnaire, be between the ages of 18 and 60 years old and get a cheek swab test.

      "I'd be grateful if I get the call to a change a life," Watson said.

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