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Science with Dan: Donating bone marrow is crucial, saves lives

This week I was given the opportunity of a lifetime.

I was flown down to College Station, Texas, to the Texas A&M University campus to meet an extraordinary 21-year-old girl named Kaci DeCock at an event hosted by Be The Match. Be The Match is an organization whose sole purpose is to swab as many people as possible between the ages of 18 and 44 to enter them into a database to provide life-saving cures for people in need of bone marrow transplants for life-threatening conditions like leukemia, sickle-cell disease, SCIDs and many others.

Kaci is just like any other typical college student at first glance. What makes her so special is that she saved my life. A week after my junior year of high school on June 17, 2011, I was diagnosed with a high-risk form of leukemia. After the first round of chemotherapy, it was determined that my cancer was not responding well to chemo alone and that I would need a life-saving transplant to have any chance of surviving. After a few more rounds of chemotherapy and total body radiation, I received a transplant on Sept. 29, 2011. That transplant seemed to be working, but a few weeks later my body rejected it and I was left with no hope because I was unlikely to find a second donor. My body had been ravaged by the treatment and without an immune system, I was lucky to be matched with someone else in the first place. The National Marrow Donor Program called her up and told her that I needed her to drop what she was doing and get prepped and ready to donate immediately. I wouldn’t have blamed her had she declined, like many people do, because of her busy schedule, as well as the fear many people have due to inaccurate depictions of the process of donating marrow.

Movies like Seven Pounds as well as an episode of House make it look like a horribly painful thing to do, when in reality you are knocked out and given medicine to make it as easy as possible. Kaci said she was sore for a day or two afterwards. They flew her to Dallas, paid for her expenses and did what they could to make her as comfortable as possible.

Today, there are thousands of people across the globe in need of these transplants, but the sad truth is that many nationalities and races have a much smaller chance of being matched. In America it is much harder for a minority to get matched because of fear and mistrust of the medical system.

I implore each and every person to find the time in their busy schedules to get swabbed and give someone else a chance to live. I could never thank Kaci enough. She did something for me that I cannot begin to explain. There are no words, at least that I know of, that would be good enough to say. It doesn’t take much effort to do something so important and kind for others. Be The Match is an example of the finest that humanity has to offer.

Dan Maloney is a sophomore studying biological science and a columnist for The Post. What is the most generous thing someone has done for you? Email him at dm933612@ohiou.edu.

 

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