HOUSTON, Texas – With opportunities to give blood or to have a quick health check, the onsite health fair at the 55th annual Islamic Society of North America’s (ISNA) conference offered several attendees a chance to offer life-saving donations to those in need as well as gain a quick snapshot of their own health.
The health fair is part of the weekend-long ISNA conference happening in Houston, Texas, Aug. 31-Sept. 2.
Several organizations are taking part including MD Anderson Medical Center; Houston Methodist Hospital; Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center; Be The Match, a blood marrow and stem cell donation outfit based in Houston; Ibn Sina Community Medical Center, and KRB Dentistry.
Zain Khan, who serves on the ISNA steering committee, organized the health fair. He said this year’s conference was the first time two major hospitals have partnered with ISNA. Furthermore, staff from both health-care facilities and the blood bank were on hand to take blood donations from willing givers.
In fact, the first-day participation in blood donation was well received with more than 30 people donating.
Anna Brown with Be The Match said her organization was happy to attend the conference, paying particular attention to attracting donors of Southeast Asian heritage.
“There’s a big need for people with that particular ethnic background to donate, and there’s a lack of donors,” Brown told AboutIslam.
Brown and her colleague Omer Aliuddin said it’s been challenging to procure the needed bone marrow or stem cell donations from the Southeast Asian community.
“It’s just a part of the culture,” Aliuddin said, adding, “They aren’t very willing to just go out and give (blood or stem cells), but we’re talking to people and educating them and they’re more open after that.”
“There’s a certain stigma attached to blood donation (in the community), but the people we’ve talked to here have been very warm and welcoming and interested in what we’re doing,” she said. “They’re open-minded about it.”
Donors are only used if they are found to be a match with a patient. The blood marrow and/or stem cell donation process is free to the donor as all costs incurred are covered by Be The Match.
Also, the process is relatively pain-free with stem cell donation following the pattern of a typical blood donation. With bone marrow donation, givers are administered anesthesia and are asleep during the process.
Brown said bone marrow donors may experience slight, temporary soreness but said the procedure is relatively simple.
The donations procured by Be The Match go to patients often in need of life-saving donor tissue.
“Our donations are used to treat certain cancers and any type of blood or bone disease,” she said.
Aliuddin urged those who may be considering a donation to give it a try.
“Even if you aren’t an immediate match to someone (in need) our system keeps scanning your sample to continuously check for a match,” he explained
Other conference attendees took advantage of health-check services offered through Ibn Sina Community Medical Center.
Staffers manning the booth said about 10 people received blood pressure and blood sugar checks on the conference’s opening day.
Estimates put the Muslim population in the US at between five and eight million.
ISNA is the largest Muslim umbrella organization in North America.
ISNA’s annual convention dates back to 1963 when the first such event was organized by the predecessor to ISNA, the Muslim Students Association of the United States and Canada.