John, a college placekicker, was familiar with the pressure of being called upon at crucial points in the game. But he never expected he would be called to step up in the game of life by donating peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC) to a patient in need.
John’s donation journey began when two high school students, for their senior project, approached John’s football team at the College of William and Mary. The students presented information about the impact of marrow donation and encouraged the players to join the Be The Match Registry® — if donating to a patient was a commitment they felt was right for them. Moved by the experience, every player who was not already a potential donor, joined the registry that day.
Six months later, John got the call that he was a match for a patient in need of a life-saving marrow transplant. For John, being chosen was a privilege and an honor. “I’m not usually the person to win anything like a raffle or anything like that. It’s cool it got to be this.” John is among the 1 in 500 people who go on to donate.
John was fully committed, but donating meant that he would have to sit on the sidelines for a brief period of time as he prepared for donation and recovered post donation.
In John’s case, the patient’s physician requested a PBSC donation. This is one of two methods of collecting blood-forming cells for marrow transplants. PBSC donation is a nonsurgical procedure, called apheresis, which is similar to donating blood.
Prior to donating, PBSC donors receive injections of a drug called filgrastim to increase the number of blood-forming cells in their bloodstream. John’s doctor explained that, though donating PBSC was low risk, he would likely need to sit out of a few practices and games during a key part of the football season. Thankfully, John’s team and coach fully supported him. “The choice between a football game and saving someone’s life … It was a no brainer,” says John’s coach.
John hoped to schedule his donation during an off-week in the season, but stressed that the patient’s health condition and schedule was his first priority. However, as John approached his donation day, there were some schedule changes which can occur when the patient is not healthy enough to receive a donation, at the scheduled time. For John, that’s when the fragility of the situation really hit home.
Once identified as a match for a patient, the donation process takes 20-30 hours over a 4-6 week period. Through every step of the journey, a Be The Match donor contact representative is with the donor to support him or her. If a donor needs help coordinating their schedule with school or work, Be The Match also provides that assistance.
The donation finally took place in Fall 2014. When asked about the donation day, he says that “it was a very simple procedure” and he watched a few movies while it took place.
Since donating, John has graduated from college and was recently married. Looking back on his experience, he is honored that he was given the opportunity to save a life, but stresses that he is not a hero. “It’s not about someone who gave up two weeks of football. It’s about the people who continually fight this battle that is almost behind the scenes,” he said. John hopes that his actions will inspire others to open their eyes to the cause. “So many lives have been affected by cancer. It’s all around us. Together, we need to step up and do more.”