Sophomore Max Quinn has taken part in something that people are only allowed to do twice in a lifetime. He first saw a college football player on ESPN “SportsCenter” who had gone through a website called bethematch.com, where he was matched to be a bone marrow donor to someone with leukemia. Quinn then decided that this was something he wanted to do. “The more people on the list, the more chances there are to save lives,” he said.
Quinn began the application process over the summer by using four cotton swabs on the inside of the mouth and sending them in to the medical staff behind bethematch.com. If the swabs show that the donor is eligible to donate, you are put on the list of possible donors. Once the donor list is narrowed to 500 people, each donor is asked if they wish to proceed. After Quinn agreed, he received a call in September saying he may be a match to between two or 12 people. He had bloodwork done and in October, he was told he was a perfect match for someone.
It is unusual for the process to move so quickly, as many people on the donor list are not called until ten or 15 years after applying. “It was a shock when I found out. I wasn’t sure how to feel. I was nervous,” said Quinn.
Five days before donating on Nov. 11, Quinn had to take painful injections of medicine in order to make his bones produce extra marrow. This medicine makes the bones work extra hard and Quinn said, “I felt tired, weak and my knees hurt. But I knew it would help [someone] out.”
Only certain hospitals in Ohio do the actual donation step of the process. So after receiving a physical at the Cleveland Clinic to make sure he was healthy, bethematch.com covered the expenses for Quinn to fly to Washington, D.C. for the donation. The physical was thorough and Quinn said he was asked about every possible disease he may have had because one factor could mess up the entire process.
The usual way of retrieving marrow is to use a needle to extract the marrow through the hip. In Quinn’s case, the injections he received produced more marrow and stem cells in his blood stream. The doctors then took the cells out from the blood through centrifuge, which separates the plasma in blood from the cells. The marrow was taken out and his blood was replaced into his system. The entire process took 6 hours.
Quinn’s donation went to a 71-year-old man in England who was on his death bed from leukemia. Different countries have different rules as far as communication between donor and recipient. In the United States, they may have anonymous contact for up to a year. After that they may meet if each party agrees.
In England, those involved may have anonymous contact for two years before they are allowed to meet or speak on the phone. Right now, each side only knows the other’s age, gender and location. “I was more willing to donate to a kid. I was deterred at first when I heard it was a 71-year-old man,” Quinn continued, “I realized that he is someone’s Grandpa and I would want someone to do the same for my Grandpa, who is 80.”
The doctors will know after 45 days whether the marrow recipient is doing well or has rejected the marrow. Quinn will be notified either way. After almost a week of recovery, Quinn returned to school.
Adjunct professor in the Boler School of Business, Robert Smith, said when Quinn flew to Washington, D.C. it was the only class he missed. “I think it’s the kind of selfless act that tells you a lot about Max and a lot about JCU students, who tend to see a higher purpose in life.” Smith continued, “It’s inspiring to know that a young man would become a bone marrow donor, despite all the hassle, simply to help a fellow human being.”
Donors must wait one year before donating again and Quinn plans to register on Nov. 11, 2016 to do so.
Editor’s Note: To find out more about bone marrow donation visit bethematch.com or contact Max Quinn at firstname.lastname@example.org.