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Monday, April 10, 2017

What’s your impact?

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April is National Donate Life Month.

Donor appeals to make a difference

Last April, I was presented with an opportunity. I received a phone call from someone asking me to save someone else’s life.

There was a woman with a rare and aggressive blood cancer lying on her deathbed with little hope to cling to, but the one in 12 million chance that she would match a viable donor came to fruition ... that donor being me. To tell you all the truth, I didn’t even know I was in the donor registry. In college, the head coach of my football team had given the entire team the day off practice to go donate blood, and during this process we were all cheekswabbed and placed into the National Donor Registry. Years went by, and I had completely forgotten that this had even happened. So when this desperate woman was in her darkest hour, a twist of fate brought our paths together.

I realized that I had a rare privilege to potentially give life to another human being, and without hesitation I jumped at the opportunity and began the process of blood draws and further screening. The process was intensive; in such a delicate situation nothing can be left to chance. I knew that somewhere out there, there was a person who now had hope. At the same time, I was informed that nearly half the potential donors who match a recipient turn down the chance. This could be out of fear from possible side effects, or it could be from pure callousness – for some, the life of a stranger isn’t worth the inconvenience of departing from your regular schedule or having to deal with some slight discomfort.

As you continue reading this, I hope that you’re doing some personal reflection and asking yourself what you would do if you found yourself in the same situation – on both ends. I couldn’t possibly imagine the pain one would feel if you found out you had a one in a million match that could save your life, but that person declined. (Please take a break from this article right now and go register at www.bethematch.org and put yourself in the system.) Odds are you’ll never even have to do anything, but you being in that registry and telling others about it could even come full circle one day and save your own life if saving a stranger isn’t good enough.

It’s the day of the donation; I’m in Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas. It’s a beautiful facility, and is undergoing renovations. Workers are wearing superhero costumes. A young child with cancer is wheeled by and waves. This is truly a special place. I’m a former college athlete, rugby player, and currently an elite powerlifter, but even I’m nervous.

The operation to extract my bone marrow takes longer than anticipated due to my bone density. It takes a few days before I can move around semi-normally, but the marrow grows back and I’m back to my usual life.

It’s a long time before I get any updates.The registry checks on me to see how my recovery is going, and the day before Christmas 2016 I get an update on how my recipient, the person who now had identical blood flowing through her body, was doing.

She had passed away only a few weeks after the procedure.

This was crushing news. I don’t know exactly why, but this was a person that I had felt a deep sense of connection to, and now she was gone. Did I fail? Was there anything I could have done better or differently? These were the questions I asked myself between tears and Kleenex. I thought it was all for nothing until I realized that I had given that family, and the woman with cancer, hope.

This also turned me into an evangelist for the Donor Registry. More and more people are spreading the word now every single day as a direct outcome of the whole experience, and with that, hope grows. Please, go register yourself and get your friends and family to register as well. There’s someone out there buried in desperation, and you very well could be the light that lifts them out of it.

We come into this world with a profound choice – do we use our lives to make a positive impact on the world around us, or do we darken it with the shadow of a selfish life?

– Mark Springer

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