Craig Ruhoff’s donation opportunity came quickly

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Craig Ruhoff, who graduates this May from St. John’s University in Minnesota, joined the Be The Match Registry® last year at a local fundraising race, the Fool’s Five Road Race, in Lewiston, Minn. Only four months later, he was called as a match and donated to a 16-year-old boy. At this year’s Fool’s Five race, he encouraged others to join the registry by sharing his donation experience.

This is Craig’s story.

It started with a race
I’ve participated in the Fool’s Five as long as I can remember. My mom had cancer when I was 8 or 9, so it’s always been something big for my family to take part in. It’s a big cancer benefit and the community raises lots of money.

Last year was the first year the Be The Match Registry was at the race. My cousin and I were walking around and saw the table. We got a little more information and we both signed up.

Four months later — a match
When I was called, it was exciting, but a little nerve-racking, too, because I hadn’t really looked into the process. I was told I was a potential match for a sixteen-year-old boy, so I went in for more testing. A week later, I learned I was a perfect match.

When they asked if I was willing to go forward, there was no way I could say no. It’s a pretty awesome responsibility.

The donation process
(Note: Craig donated peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC). To learn about PBSC donation, see the PBSC donation process video.)

In between my class schedule, I would drive down to Minneapolis for the physical and the bloodwork, and then for my first shot of filgrastim. The next three days, a home nurse came to my house at school to give me the shots.

They said that I might feel achy from the shots, but it was nothing severe. I was working out, lifting weights, so I couldn’t tell if I was aching from that or from the shots.

For my donation, I was hooked up to the machine for eight hours. It got uncomfortable towards the end, but my parents were there and a nurse took care of everything I needed.

As soon as I was done, someone put my donation in a cooler and took it away to wherever it was going. It all went as smoothly as I could hope.

Volunteering
Because I was able to donate, I decided to help recruit potential donors at the Fool’s Five race this year.

A lot of people came up to me to talk about my donation experience. I was able to answer questions and reassure people who had reservations. We signed up another 101 people this year, so it was a pretty neat experience.

What I tell people

A small commitment can make such a large impact. It was two days out of my schedule and an essentially painless process. But it made a huge impact for a teenage boy, maybe saved his life. It’s nothing anyone should be afraid of.

Look into donating and get on the registry.

Update December 2010: Many Be The Match Registry members who read this story asked us why they hadn’t been called to donate after years on the registry. Unfortunately we can’t predict when – or whether – any individual will be asked to donate. On average, about one in 200 registry members goes on to donate. You could be a match for a patient tomorrow, or many years after joining, or you may never be a match.  A patient’s body will only accept marrow that closely matches the patient, and the system of markers being matched for transplant is much more complex than a blood type.

61 Responses to “Craig Ruhoff’s donation opportunity came quickly”

  1. MARIBEL says:

    THAT IS AWESOME! I TOO AM ON THE REGISTRY AND ALSO HOPE I CAN ALSO SAVE SOMEONE’S LIFE.

  2. Kari says:

    I’m on the registry as well, and I hope I can help someone ! I have a wonderful friend that is fighting Multiple Meyloma as well as brain cancer. Praying for a donor and a cure.

  3. Mary Byrnes says:

    What a special thing you did. My son received stem cells from frozen umbilical cords. I went and became a donor right away. I hope I get called. It has to be a great feeling. Good luck and God bless wonderful people like you.
    Mary Byrnes
    teacher42063@yahoo.com

  4. Holly Caster says:

    Did you get any sort of pain medication for the process. I am a proud registered donor, and I’m scared of pain! Thanks for any info.

  5. Kety says:

    You are an amazing person and you and your parents should be proud. It is wonderful that someone your age recognizes and appreciates the wonder that is life! Good Luck in all you do!

  6. Anonymous Donor - patient results pending says:

    WAY TO GO!!!! Nice work Craig 🙂
    Your detailed description of the mild side effects and long 8 hour day were right on. It’s amazing that it was so easy to do and there was no pain involved. How did you do after? In our case, I was able to drive 2 hours home right after the procedure.

  7. Be The Match says:

    Get informed about donating bone marrow by reading our myths and facts page at http://bit.ly/9VpKTd

  8. wench costume says:

    You guys are incredible. I really admire you for your passion in helping other people. May you continue what you are doing and I really wish you guys all the best in life.

  9. Lisa says:

    I am a registered donor. Do I just wait until they contact me saying I am a match for someone?

  10. Rosa Azevedo says:

    Great to hear that it happened that soon for you. I pray that God will use me to help somebody who matches up with me. May God continue to bless you.

  11. Abby says:

    I became a donor last year in hopes of being a match for a friend’s 3 year old son. A donor was found but unfortunately at this point there will be no donation needed, he is a fighter yet hanging on to his final days. If there is ever a chance to save a LIFE and you have the opportunity to do so, be a blessing and take advantage of it. Hopes and Prayers go out to everyone fighting this aweful disease. God Bless to all!

  12. Brenda says:

    Craig’s story is very inspirational, thank you for sharing it with everyone on the bone marrow registry. I am a registered donor too and I’m always wondering when I will get the call. We had registration through my workplace and someone was the match for a 6 yr. old boy. You just never know when it could be your child and you just hope that people out there will be there to help. I hope through your story and efforts more young people register.

  13. Cyndi says:

    I hope that I am found to be a match for someone. I think that this is the least we all can do for each other.

  14. Niccole Cashman says:

    I’m so glad that I read this article. Even though I am already on the registry, it was nice hearing about the experience from someone first hand. I’m not as anxious anymore.

  15. Sandra Dartez says:

    I am a proud donor too, and I can tell everyone it is such a great thing to do. I gave thru the same way that Craig did and it wasn’t painful at all. I had to sit still for about 6 hours. I would do it again anytime they asked me to.

  16. chibucks says:

    great story. would love to hear it also from the recipient’s side and how they’re doing.

  17. Nancy says:

    I became a register donor 2007 haven’t been called yet I hope I get to be a match. As a certified nurse assist in a cute hosp
    I would love to be match a very special thing for me. loves Craig story!!

  18. Bob Horn says:

    I’ve been on the Registry for years. Never contacted yet, but I have to believe that it would be a life-changer to be contacted and possibly save someone’s life. Your story motivated me to share info on Facebook and encourage my Friends to join the Registry.
    Very nice going, Craig – you should feel very, very good about yourself…

  19. vivian says:

    I am on the list for 5 years but still do not have a match. I think it is a very noble work to be able to save one’s life. I have a friend that her daughter died because the donor refused to donate at the last minute. I want to be a donor because I want to have donors if someday I will be the one’s hopelessly waiting for a miracle.
    Be a DONOR.

  20. aliica driscoll says:

    I have been on the registryl list for years. As a person of mixed ethnicity (black/hispanic). I hope more minorities will volunteer to be a potential donor. I may never be a match for someone…but you never know and that is why I volunteered.

  21. Jan says:

    I signed up years ago now at a church yard sale in Texas — and thankfully was reminded via an email to update my info when I relocated to AL. It did help to hear from an actual donor about the ease of the process. I used to give blood but now donate platelets every month so don’t think I’ll have any problem if and when called.

  22. Stacy-heart broken widow says:

    I signed up to be a donor after my husband was diagnosed with Leukemia. 6 donors were found within hours of them looking on the national registry. A complete stranger donated from Texas. My husband lost his battle with Leukemia after five months of fighting! Even though our outcome was not good he did an awesome thing…more people need to sign up and become educated.

  23. Eric in CT says:

    I am a registered donor and even after reading Craig’s story, I have to admit I am still nervous to be called someday. I’d love to help someone (which is of course why I signed up), and Craig’s and everyone’s reassurances definitely help, but I guess I still don’t feel knowledgeable about the side effects, their duration, etc., and that’s what makes me unsure about going through with it.

  24. Kim says:

    I signed up after my husband was diagnosed with Myelodysplastic syndrome and we were told that he would need a bone marrow transplant in order to live more than 2-3 years. We were lucky – his brother was a perfect match & was willing to donate, however I know not everyone has a related donor match. We found out Monday that the 100 day post transplant bone marrow biopsy came back clean and healthy with no blasts & 98% donor DNA – we couldn’t have had a better outcome! I hope that someday I can return the gift my brother-in-law gave my husband & I.

  25. Diana says:

    Thanks for being so brave and selfless. Our 4 year old son just had a bone marrow transplant 41 days ago from an unrelated donor and we are so grateful to her.

  26. Gina Moore says:

    Thank you so much for being a “lifesaver”! My dad was diagnosed with Leukemia last year and received a stem cell transplant thanks to his donor. We hope to get to meet my dad’s donor after a year has passed. We are so thankful to him and consider him a part of our family. Thank you for giving of yourself to help others.
    Gina

  27. Robin Greif says:

    I’ve been on the registry since the early 90’s. I was a first-stage match almost right away, but another donor was found to be a second-stage match.
    Even without reading Craig’s story, I’m secure that my workout routine (extreme-15 hours per week of karate), health, and the fact that I’ve been through many surgeries before will prepare me.
    I am ready and willing to help save a life. What a gift that would be!

  28. Beth says:

    This is truly touching to read these stories. I am a registered donor but yet to be called as well as all of the others. I am ready to step up to the plate though, need be. The feeling for Craig had to be so intense, like a “fix” of sorts to know he probably saved somene’s life & would want to continue again and again. One day I hope I can proudly say that I DID!! I have donated gallons of blood and that is a rewarding feeling too knowing it takes blood to live. Being a healthcare person I’ve seen alot of this first hand and heard from the patients as well, they ARE very grateful to that donor.

  29. Tom Treinen says:

    Craig wway to go what a great gift you have given,the gift of life. Our son passed away from ALM before he could recieve his bone marrow transplant. Our entire family and extended family have become donors. Thank you Craig.

  30. Wendy says:

    Wow and I thought my 1 year on the list was fast to be a match! Good Job!

  31. leo says:

    Its really nice to hear there’s still good people out there i actually lost my mom lo leukemia 2 years ago and i have been registered for 2 and half and i always like to keep myself updated but im really glad u did this. life will reward u.
    leo
    peredia500@yahoo.com

  32. Kevin Scadden says:

    Good work Craig! Your story reminds me of my donation after receiving my call that I was a match just a few weeks after joining.

  33. Lynn says:

    My sister lost her battle with Leukemia. She had a transplant from an unrelated doner, not a perfect match but close. Unfortunatly she had a very agressive form of cancer and also had graft vs host with the transplant. But every day I am thankful for the chance someone gave her. Maybe if there were more registered she would have found a perfect match. I’m registred as are all my sisters and many friends.

  34. Fran Bockenhauer says:

    I am very proud of you Craig! You took the Fools Five Road Race to a new dimension. Remember walking around the table stuffing packets? You are a doer and a giver. God Bless you!

  35. Susan says:

    God bless you, Craig. I’m also on the registry for many years. My husband needed a transplant
    4 years ago. He received an unrelated and unmatched donation. He suffered graft vs host for
    over 2 months in the hospital. By God’s grace he
    survived and we feel truly blessed. We met his
    donor and spent a weekend with his family. We now
    feel they are our family. Thankyou for donating.

  36. Shannon Westling says:

    That is so amazing! I am so glad there are so many people willing to help complete strangers. It gives me hope for humanity.
    I hope God will use me to help as well.

  37. Mike Funk says:

    Fantastic to hear from a donor first hand. What a wonderful thing you’ve done. I’ve been on the registry for several years and not been contacted yet. If the call comes one of these days I wouldn’t hesitate to follow through with it. What a rush you must have felt making such an important contribution to someones life.

  38. Karen says:

    That is so awesome Craig. I thank you for being someone who without any hesitation said you would do this. A week ago I got a call stating I was a possible match for someone. There was absolutely no doubt about going forward. I went yesterday for the blood work and now just waiting to hear. I pray that I can help this man have a chance at surviving. Thanks again Craig!!

  39. Renee says:

    I am waiting for the call … I would love to help someone in need…Craig was brave and did such a wonderful thing…. I hope I can be that brave if I am called….so many good people suffering and some gone… it needs to end…

  40. Traci says:

    That is sooooo exciting!!! You are so lucky to be a “match” for someone in need…..I hope I get called!!!!

  41. Leland Horstmann says:

    Fantastic story. I registered as a marrow donor after recovering from altruistic kidney donation. For the recipient there is no substitute. For the donor, the reward is knowing how much these donations change lives.

  42. Laurie says:

    You are a hero! You should be so proud of yourself. I would love for the opportunity. I am also in the registry and have been for some time. My sister and I had a friend who needed a donor – that’s why we wanted to be donors. I’ll just keep all my information updated – and maybe someday I’ll get the call. Definitely a small price to pay if someone can benefit.

  43. Shannon Emilia says:

    I registered to be a donor because my friend Fredy had leukemia. Unfortunately, my friend didn’t make it, but hopefully I’ll get a call someday and be able to help someone like you did. Congrats for giving someone the best gift of all. 🙂

  44. Tammy says:

    That’s wonderful. I am thankful for people like you. I have been on the registry for 8 years, but have never had to to donate. However, this past year I found out my younger brother has Leukemia. He now needs a bone marrow transplant and is trying to get into remission before it can be done. I hope I am a match, but I may not be and it is people like you that might be able to save his life. You just never know when it might touch you personally.

  45. Shannon says:

    That is an amazing story! I am registered on Be A Match Also and I really hope I get called to be a match to save a life. My son was diagnosed at 21 months with ALL leukemia and needed a Bone Marrow Transplant, he received his transplant over a year ago from a donor outside the US and he is doing absolutley amazing.

  46. lovette rodriguez says:

    What more can you saY 🙂 you saved someones life!!!!!! way to go!!!!!!

  47. Melissa Ross says:

    Craig,
    Thank you so much for saying yes when asked to be a stem cell donor. My husband passed away three years ago. He had multiple myeloma and had two stem cell transplants using his own stem cells. So I saw how important it is for people who are a match to say yes. I pray God blesses you in an extra-special way. And congratulations on your graduation from St. Johns University.

  48. Maria says:

    Way to go, Craig!! My husband and I have been in the registry for over 10 years. Last month, my husband was called as a potential match. He went through the bloodwork and information processing. He has not been called back after that. We are eagerly waiting for the results. We hope and pray that he would be a perfect match. I hope I get called, too, one of these days.

  49. Jeanie says:

    I signed up a year ago on my birthday as a way of giving back. I have two small kids and feel that if ever something were wrong with them I would be praying for someone to help. Therefore I felt it only respectful for me to become a donor for other moms out there praying. Sometimes we should consider paying things forward before were on the receiving end.

  50. Diana Czerman says:

    So proud of you!!!! Wish more people would get involved you never know when it could be your child, brother, sister, mother, father, friend or anyone! I’ve been on the donor list for 15 years now, waiting for a call, hoping I can help someone as I would want someone to help my loved ones!!! way to go Craig!!

  51. Allison Soucy says:

    Thank you so much for donating. My husband’s life was saved last October 2008 with a bone marrow transplant from a donor from “Be the Match”. He is doing well and is leukemic free. He faces challenges every day, but he is alive to see his two teenage boys grow into marvelous men. I have become a donor also and we have become involved in the “Be the Match” program. You are truly an amazing person and I know your family must be very proud of you. Keep up the good work and I hope to some day be able to save someone’s life too. Keep the faith!

  52. Tricia says:

    Thank you for donating. My father just had a life saving bone marrow transplant. The donor is anonymous, but whoever he is I am so grateful and remember him in my prayers always! I only hope one day I will be called to pay if forward to another person in need.

  53. Kyle Hicks says:

    Very cool. I joined the registry in 1992 and was called as a preliminary donor in 1994. I didn’t end up being the best match that time. Here we are 2010 and I received an email in March stating I was a match. I had the additional blood work done in April and should know next week if I am the best match. It is something I would love to do for another human being. I am so hopeful more and more people will join the registry.

  54. SHELLY O'NEAL says:

    I BECAME A DONOR AFTER MY 26 YR. OLD DAUGHTER WAS DIAGNOSED WITH LEUKEMIA (ALL) IN 2007. SHE JUST RECENTLY HAD A BMT JAN 26TH OF THIS YEAR, 2010. THEY HAVE DONE THE BLOOD TESTS EVERY WEEK SINCE THEN & HER BODY HAS ACCEPTED THIS DONORS CELLS! THANK THE LORD! THE DONOR WAS ACTUALLY FROM EUROPE, PRETTY AMAZING. I CAN’T WAIT TIL I’M CALLED ALSO.

  55. Terry Sanchez says:

    Awesome Craig!! Way to go!! I’m volunteer too, looking forward to help anybody:) God bless you:)

  56. Amy in NY says:

    I also donated peripheral stem cells a few years ago, after being on the registry for only 6 months. It was a two-day procedure for me and required an over-night stay in the hospital due to needing a central line for the procedure, and couldn’t go home over night with it in place. The donation went very well, and no problems whatsoever. I am really glad that I was able to help someone, and I would definately do it again, if I ever am needed in the future. I am actually now working on the unit where I had my procedure, funny how things happen like that :). I don’t know how the recipient is doing, all I know is that it is a man, and his transplant center doesn’t give updates. But, that’s ok…I am just happy that I was able to help make a difference in someone’s life.

  57. Elizabeth says:

    You are blessed.

  58. Crystal in Rushford says:

    Wow! It is amazing to see that someone who lives 15 minutes away from me, was called upon to be a donor. I have not yet, been called, but am patiently waiting for when that day comes. Thank You Craig, for being such a selfless person, and donating a small part of yourself to save another.

  59. Ossie Neal says:

    Way to go, because I was Military, the Red Cross don’t want my blood because of the overseas assignments, but the bone marrow registry accepted me right away. I am hoping one day I can help someone, but just reading the stories that they send out in the e-mail’s makes me proud to be a donor. God Bless you and keep you and your family.

  60. paul plant says:

    I have been on the donor list for about ten years. I wait patiently to help someone.
    Paul

  61. Darren says:

    Called about a month ago, have had my blood work drawn and waiting. I am begining to think I may not be a match being it’s been about a month or little longer now and no call back yet.
    Darren/Texas

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