University of Florida student Alex saved a life
Alex, 21, knows how quickly life can change. In September 2011, his father’s life was cut short at the age of 54. In a unique twist of fate, Alex found himself donating to save the life of a man almost the same age as his father, a week before the one-year anniversary of his father’s passing. “I wanted to give him the chance my father never had,” Alex said.
Alex joined the registry at a University of Florida drive he helped organize. The drive, held in conjunction with Hillel and Footprints (a club that partners college students with children being treated at Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Florida) registered over 1,000 new donors. To date, 12 matches have been found from that drive, including the match between Alex and his recipient.
Seven months after the UF drive, Alex received a call that he was a match for a 52-year-old man with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). The date of his donation, coupled with the anniversary of his father’s passing, made the process more meaningful. Alex said, “It gave me a chance to cope a little bit. I had the opportunity to prevent [my recipient’s] family from having to go through what my mom, brother, and I went through.”
Alex’s peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donation was taken via a central line, something he had been informed about as a possibility. Although a little uneasy at first, Alex’s friend put the donation in perspective, telling him that, no matter what he was feeling, he would have saved someone’s life at the end of the day—and that was what he was going to remember. He laughs now saying he has a new appreciation for what the children he works with at Footprints go through.
Alex hopes to meet his recipient once the required year of anonymity has passed. His friends may joke that the man will look like an older version of him, but it is the recipient’s family that Alex feels a strong connection with as well. Having lost his father, the best advice he can give to the family of the man he saved is “Never take the time they have with him for granted because when it’s over, it’s over.”
Alex has plans to help run a Gift of Life drive on UF’s campus on November 13 and 14, 2012. He hopes that his story will encourage others to learn more about becoming a volunteer bone marrow donor and join the registry.