USS CARL VINSON, At Sea (NNS) -- More than one third of USS Carl Vinson's (CVN 70) crew volunteered to potentially save lives during a bone-marrow registry drive held on the ship's forward mess decks April 14-15.
The drive came in response to a Commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet initiative aimed at raising awareness throughout the fleet and increasing the bone-marrow donor registry.
Every year, an estimated 30,000 Americans are diagnosed with a fatal blood disease, many of whom will not survive without receiving a bone marrow transplant. Approximately 500 of those diagnosed are military personnel.
Typically, the majority of patients in need of bone marrow transplants do not have a suitable donor match within their family. For this reason, a national registry of volunteer donors accommodates patients who are in need of an unrelated donor.
Carl Vinson added 1,250 names to that registry in just two days.
Lt. Brian Carion, the ship's nurse, spearheaded the drive with the help of Vinson's hospital corpsmen.
"It was a tremendous effort by the corpsmen," said Carion. "The first day, we got through 300 [Sailors] in the first 90 minutes."
As a means to boost participation, the ship's Executive Officer, Capt. Ken Norton, promised the first-call to liberty during a recent port call in San Diego for those who registered. Norton, who was already part of the bone-marrow registry, said the liberty was a way to reward Sailors who took the time to help a worthwhile cause and potentially save a life.
"This is a great opportunity and truly an altruistic way that you can go about giving more," said Norton. "It's important to me to be a part of the registry. I feel it would be my duty to help, should I match with somebody that needed my bone marrow. I just feel it's the right thing to do."
The ship's crew shared that sentiment with their executive officer and expressed appreciation for how easy the whole registration process was.
"I walked up, filled out a questionnaire, sat down and got my blood drawn. The whole thing took me 15 minutes, tops," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 1st Class (AW/SW) Michael Shapard. "It was quick, simple and painless, and all for a good cause."
The ease of participating, according to Carion, contributed to much of the drive's success.
"We really had a good game plan, and once we got started, the ball just kept rolling," he said. "Once a few people went through the process and saw how easy it was, they would go grab two or three people from their shop. It was an infectious team spirit. I never saw the mess decks empty."
Carl Vinson's Mustang Association also joined in the team effort by serving ice cream to Sailors who participated in the registry. "We are always willing to lend a helping hand to such a great cause," said Lt. j.g. Robert Naifeh, Mustang Association president.
The combination of teamwork and special incentives ended the drive well ahead of Carion's initial goal of 1,000 registrations.
The blood samples from Carl Vinson's participants have been shipped to the C.W. Bill Young Marrow Donor Center in Kensington, Md., where they will be tissue typed and entered into the Department of Defense National Marrow Donor Program Registry (NMDP). In addition to the 1,250 new donors, 200 Vinson Sailors who were already part of NMDP updated their registry information, leading to an overall shipwide participation of nearly 50 percent.
Carl Vinson is currently conducting training off the coast of Southern California and is scheduled to return to its homeport of Bremerton, Wash., in early May.
For related news, visit the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn70.