How Zach Became THE Guy

Posted August 11th, 2016 by Be The Match and filed in News
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ZachZach’s just a regular guy–a junior at St. Scholastica in Minnesota where he plays basketball and football, interns during the day and works as a janitor at night. He hangs out with friends and family. He watches The Bachelorette.

But in spring 2015, something remarkable happened to Zach. One of his basketball teammates was running a Be The Match Registry® drive on campus.  “He just asked me if I wanted to save a life,” said Zach. “So I did a cheek swab. I didn’t think much more about it.”

Zach certainly didn’t think he would end up being called as a match—becoming THE guy that would save someone’s life.

 A life-changing decision

Zach was shocked when he got a call that he was a match for a father with leukemia.  He was concerned about missing classes, how donation might affect his own health, and wondered if donating might end his basketball season early. But ultimately, donating was more important. “What made me decide to donate was that you only have one life on this earth, so you better make it count,” said Zach.

Getting ready, coping with side-effects

Zach was surprised by the number of doctor’s appointments needed to make sure he was the best match for the patient. He was also surprised by the side-effects he experienced while preparing to donate. Because he was asked to donate peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC), he needed daily injections for a few days leading up to donation to increase the number of blood-forming stem cells in his bloodstream. The shots didn’t hurt, but they made him feel tired, weak, dizzy, and nauseous. “I did manage to play basketball while getting the injections. One of the games was one of my best–the other one wasn’t as good,” Zach joked.

Donation day jitters and recovery

Even though Zach knew what to expect on donation day, he was anxious. “It was the most nervous I have ever been,” Zach said. “I couldn’t sleep the night before. My adrenaline was going, knowing that I could save a man’s life.”

After donating, Zach missed a few days of classes to take it easy. “The hardest part was getting back on the basketball court while my body was recovering. I’m thankful to my friends and teammates for their support.” Two weeks after donation, Zach was back to feeling 100%.

 A message of thanks

Around the date of his donation, Zach received a message from his patient through his Be The Match coordinator:  Zach hopes they can to meet one day.

Today Zach encourages others to join the Be The Match Registry. “If you ever are able to donate, it is one of the greatest feelings,” Zach said. “Not too many people get to say that they’ve saved a life. It’s pretty cool.”

Learn how you could be THE guy or girl today!

44 Responses to “How Zach Became THE Guy”

  1. Steve says:

    Zach thank you so much! My 9 year old nephew’s life was saved because a total stranger made the same decision you did. Thank you for being a wonderful human being!!

  2. Frank K says:


    It is an amazing thing to know you have saved a life…but even more amazing for the recipient to receive and live. I have been on the list for a long time and hope that some day I to can be the match.

  3. Carolyn S says:

    Great story, Zach. Thanks for making the sacrifice. I’ve been on the list for more than 15 years and was only called once. Unfortunately, I was not a match for that person but maybe some day I will be here for someone else who needs me.

  4. Barbara says:

    Thanks for sharing information about the process and side effects of this procedure. It’s great to know what may be in store, and hopefully potential donors will sign up when they see the inconvenience is minimal in relation to the gravity and potential outcome.

    I’m as proud of you Zach as I would be of my own son. Thank your buddy who ran the sign up event too!

  5. Pam says:

    You made a wonderful decision to be a donor. I singed up over 3 years ago, and although I have not yet been called, I truly believe that this program is essential.

  6. Laurie Brockhoff says:

    I have been on the list for several years & have not yet been called to donate, so glad Zach was willing to help

  7. Joan McHale says:

    Congratulations Zach for such a selfless act! I’ve been on the list as well for over 20 years, and whenever I get an email from Be The Match, I always stop and think before I open it, “this could be my time”, but not yet! Saving a life is the greatest gift.

  8. Irene says:

    Life is beautiful and even more so when you can help another human being. My sister’s life was extended when she received a kidney transplant from a stranger. What you did is nothing shy of heroic! The elation the family of your patient must feel to know that their Dad, husband, brother, son, uncle was blessed by another special human being like you. You’re great deed gave him a quality of life he otherwise may not have been able to have, had it not been for your kindness. YOU ROCK!

    • Jacqueline Hazel says:

      I could have written this same comment. My late sister received a successful transplanted kidney from a stranger, but, then got one From me.. 10 years or so later. She did end up with hepatitis C though, probably contracted between transplants.

      Still, she had a lot of good living in those ten years. And I got to experience life with her as an adult.

      I hope to donate with this program. Life is a precious joy. Peace.

  9. A Young says:

    Giving life saving blood marrow or stem cells is an incredible blessing. Thank you for sharing your story and including the side effects and recovery period for you. Donation may include some inconveniences but ultimately, it is so worth it.

  10. Julie-Ann Forney says:

    What a wonderful thing you did Zach! Thank you. I am proud of you. I have been on the list of potential donors for many years. I am sure I would experience all the same feelings that you did and I appreciate that you shared those with all of us, that ultimately you did this wonderful favor to save someone elses life. God bless you Zach!

  11. Y.Rodriguez says:

    Thank you Zac for such a wonderful, selfless act. I am extremely proud that at such a young age you gave someone the gift of life. I have been on the list for 16 years and have not been called upon but would respond if called. May God bless you and guide you always.

  12. A.J. says:

    You the man Ol’ Zachy-boy!! Nice SWOOSH you made there!!

  13. Joe says:

    Been in registry since 92′ just got a call I might be a match. Did the swab just waiting for further info. Let’s wish the other person luck.

    • Annie says:

      Joe, I’ve been on the registry since around late 1999 or early 2000 I think and I was beginning to wonder if I haven’t been called yet what the chances are I ever will be. That’s amazing and it’s great to know there is no time limit. Good luck!

  14. Valerie says:

    You are a hero God bless you xoxo

  15. Teresa Tran says:

    Hi Zach:
    Thank you and thank you all donors.
    My daughter just had a bone marrow transplant in April.
    And we wish to meet the hero next year.

  16. Katie says:

    Zachary, I just want to say THANK YOU. April 21, 2016 my Dad gained a birthday when someone decided to save his life and donate.

  17. Marci says:

    You are an inspiration. Thank you!

  18. Rick says:

    John 15:13 greater love has no man than this to lay down a life for man !
    A Star in your crown!
    Rick- Atlanta

  19. Zoe says:

    Thank you! Your story is inspiring! I signed up because my niece too saved a life with a story similar to yours (minus the basketball!). Well done!

  20. Olga says:

    Thank you for not being selfish and share your life with a person in need! You responded to a call from God to help others and that will be the best mark you live in this earth when you go! Thank you for being a wonderful person God will bless you 7 x 7……

  21. Barbara M says:

    Hi Zach

    You’re a hero!!! You literally saved one life and could potentially save more. I’ve been on the registry for over 10 years anxiously waiting to donate. But you had the chance and I know it’s a wonderful feeling. Your parents must be proud of the young man you turned out to be. Best of luck in your studies

    A Mom Herself

  22. Adrian says:

    Hey Zach, you just lost your “Regular Guy” status. From now on you are far more than that to this man’s family. Great story and great marketing piece from “be the match”….I’m serious, well done all around.


  23. susan says:

    zach you are a true hero!
    wishing you the best of everything..

  24. Eric says:

    I’ve been on the registry for about 12 years and never been called… yet. I donate blood or platelets about 15 times per year for the same reason I joined the registry: to save lives.

    Also, thank you to everyone who commented that they are registered. You WILL save a life even if you don’t end up donating, just by letting others know about this life-saving organization!

  25. Sandy says:

    Awesome Zach!! I have been on the list since 2000. I have never been called but can’t imagine the feeling of helping a fellow human being. You are so excited that you got to save a life, just imagine how the recipient and their family feels about you!!


  26. Sherri hardesty says:

    Thank you Zach for being willing to save a life, I too am on the list but unfortunately have never been called for possible match–I like another lady am proud of you like you were my own son. One day I would love to be that person who can save a life.

  27. Dawn Mosley says:

    Thank you Jeff for being a donor. My son was 1 when we found out he had leukemia and a stranger stepped up and donated for him. It was the most humbling experience ever.

  28. Janice says:

    Thank you Zach. Many college students who are a match choose not to donate because college life can be complicated. The father who received your life saving donation will have countless years of happy times with his family. I received my match 7 yrs ago from a 24 yr old who lives in Germany. I have since seen my children graduate college- I’ve gone to countless weddings, parties and vacations. I was sick for a few years before I found my match. I’m truly blessed. One thing my donor said was ‘ you can be a total screw up for the rest of your life but you know you did one thing right ‘ . My donor kept his donation story private because he thought it was ‘no big deal – anyone would do it ‘ he thought he was bragging. Please continue to share your story. You never know who it will impact. I’m glad you shared your experience. It’s honest. I look forward to my kids weddings and hopefully some grandkids too !

  29. Lucretia Sheffield says:

    My high school friend lived 9 yrs longer after two stem cell transplants. His family and friends are thankful to have been given this time with him. He saw the birth of his two grandchildren and got to enjoy spending the last 5 yrs. with them. They never got to know their donors but they thank God everyday for them.

  30. Kathleen Mrozinski says:


    Great story I am a donor mom and have been on the list for over 10 years so glad that you could help someone.
    The gift of life is the greatest gift of all…Losing my daughter was hard but when god gives you lemons you make lemonade…

  31. Marilys Martinez says:

    Zach, how wonderful!, you helped save a life!
    I’ve been on the list for over 15 years and every time I receive an email I get nervous and excited thinking that the time arrived to help save a life.
    Your parents must be proud!

  32. Julia Lovely says:

    Zach, you are truly a hero. Thank you again and again for your selfless gift.

  33. Monica Saiz-Martinez says:

    You are a blessing Zach! I’ve been on the donor list for about 7 yrs now. I hope to be called one day and be “The girl” for someone. Recently 2 small children, that are siblings in our town were diagnosed with a rare type of cancer that only a bone marrow donor can help with. I pray that they the match for them is found before its too late. To God be the glory for the decision you made that day.

  34. Mike Debbas says:

    That is awesome Zach. I’m looking forward to the day I get the call. God Bless You All on this site wanting to save a life. Peace, Love and Happiness to all.

  35. Amanda says:

    THANK YOU Zach! Donating took courage and selflessness. You are an inspiration. I have matched for platelets for a specific cancer patient in the past.I look forward to the day I can do the same with bone marrow for another stranger in need.

  36. Rick Moramarco says:

    Zach you are no longer just another guy. Having had a career as a firefighter I know the feeling of helping to save a life there is nothing like it. I have been on the list for probably 20 years or more and age out before long with no match yet. Hopefully more people like you continue to sign up to help save a life.

  37. Soniya says:

    Hi Zach

    Thank you for your donation and for sharing your experience with others. God bless you for saving a life. Im on the list to donate but so far have never been called. If I’m needed some day I know I’ll be there in a heartbeat. Reading your story reinforces how imp it is to be on the donor list and how enormously it can change somebody else’s life and that of their family’s.
    Thanks and god bless. You are a wonderful human being.

  38. Geri Willbrand says:

    What a great example you set for your peers. Your parents must be so proud, as they should be. I hoped when I signed on to the registery that I could help someone. I will be 60 (yikes!) next year and will no longer be considered. God bless you and those around you who supported your decision and your journey.

  39. Kim Gulick says:

    Great Job Zack, I have been on Donor list for 20 years and would love to help someone. Thank you for saving a life!

  40. Tammy Roussos says:

    If I was your parent I would be so proud of you, which I’m sure they are! To do a selfless act of kindness to save ones life is the best gift you can give or receive! You will never know the impact you made on this fathers life! Because if you he may be able to see his kids grow up, graduate or get married! I’ve been o the registry for about 30 years and hope one day I get that call! Hopefully from your generous gift others you know will want to register too! Thank you for your act of love!

  41. Gary Proskin says:

    Congrats Zach,
    2 1/2 years ago I also was a donor for a lady in France that needed stem cells. Unfortunately, the French govt. will not allow us to meet or to share any information such as email, names, numbers or any other personal information. What a wonderful feeling it is to be able to help someone. My sister passed away 12 years ago at 30 years old from cancer, so this was extra special for me. Putting your athletic and education aside for a few weeks is admirable and so worth saving a life. Congrats again on your selflessness. Hope you get to have another opportunity to do it again. I know I would…. without question. Be proud.

  42. Natalia says:

    God bless you for your selfless act.. There will be no way for that family to ever repay you. What you did was beautiful, you saved a life and not many can say that. When we leave this earth, we hope we left a legacy, something extraordinary, and you have done so at such a young age. Your parents should be so proud of you. I hope my children will be as good hearted as you when they grow up into young adults.

    God bless you for giving life.

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