TU math senior Conner Wurth has made the ultimate gift with a life-saving bone marrow donation. After joining the national bone marrow registry Be the Match in 2014, he was contacted earlier this year to fulfill his commitment as a donor. Seventy percent of marrow transplant patients cannot find a match within their family and must rely on donors such as Wurth from the national registry.
“I understood that if I declined to donate, someone somewhere in the United States would likely pass away,” he said. “I thought about the lives of the family and friends of the patient and embraced the opportunity to change their lives.”
The process took nearly five days to complete in October. Wurth received 10 immune stimulating injections to increase his body’s pluripotent stem cells, which were later collected in Oklahoma City. His cells then were transferred to another hospital in the United States for treatment. Wurth looks forward to meeting the individual who received his donation, but the registry requires a one-year waiting period before the recipient’s identity is revealed.
“Though I certainly enjoyed the process of giving, I’m very eager to see the faces of the people who I was able to help by being a donor,” he said.
Wurth signed up for the national registry with help from Caleb Lareau (BS ’15), a biochemistry and mathematics graduate who established a program to increase the number of bone marrow donations. As a NOVA Fellow at TU, Lareau was challenged to develop an innovative project that benefits others. The NOVA Fellowship is a service program providing current students with opportunities to follow their passions and develop innovative projects to benefit the community. Directed by marketing professor Charles Wood, the initiative requires students to earn an Applied Innovation Certificate and participate in workshops, service activities, networking events, presentations and conferences.
Individuals diagnosed with leukemia and other cancers often require a bone marrow transfer for treatment. Unlike blood that can be drawn quickly and stored for later use, bone marrow transplants require a one-to-one patient-donor match with immediate transfer. The complicated process also must involve individuals with sufficiently similar genetic markers in the human keukocyte antigen region of chromosome 6. There are only eight major blood types in humans, but several thousand variants of marrow exist and demand a near-perfect match.
For information on becoming a bone marrow donor, visit bethematch.org. Learn about the NOVA Fellowship program at novafellowship.org or contact the director at firstname.lastname@example.org.