On June 29, 1990, during a routine physical required by Davidson College before matriculating, I learned something that would forever change my life and shape my future. At the age of 18, I would face my biggest challenge: Aplastic Anemia.
As innocuous as it may sound, Aplastic Anemia is actually quite deadly. Essentially, your bone marrow quits producing all of the vital components a healthy human body needs: red blood cells to carry oxygen and give your body energy; white blood cells to fight infection; and platelets to repair cuts, scrapes and bruises.
The good news for me and for others diagnosed with the disease is that Aplastic Anemia can be cured with a bone marrow transplant, a miracle of modern medicine that is more commonly known as a treatment for many types of cancers, particularly leukemia.
The bad news is that a bone marrow transplant is only possible if you are fortunate enough to have a sibling or a relative who is a genetic match or if your un-related genetic twin exists and was generous and selfless enough to have been typed at a bone marrow drive and is willing to donate some of their bone marrow to save your life. The chances of finding an un-related donor are 1 in 20,000.
I was fortunate enough to find a donor among my relatives. My father, although not a perfect match, was close enough for the doctors to move forward with the procedure and on October 29th, 1990, I received my bone marrow transplant and began my life as a transplant survivor. Although my recovery was not without its challenges and setbacks, I was able to return to Davidson College in 1991. Upon my return to Davidson, I learned about Project Life.
Project Life was a student-run organization formed by David Lindsay, also a bone marrow transplant survivor, to educate students on the promise a bone marrow transplant offers, the importance of being typed and included on the national bone marrow registry, and, more importantly, donating bone marrow when called upon. The program has been a huge success at Davidson over the past twenty years, resulting in thousands of volunteers being added to the National Marrow Donor Registry and a surprising number of bone marrow donors, each one representing a gift of life to a person in need.
Given the success of Project Life at Davidson, David Lindsay approached me and a handful of other staunch believers and supporters with the idea to transform Project Life from a Davidson institution to a nation-wide movement. Our goal is to replicate the success of Project Life at Davidson at college and universities across the country.
Given the many diseases that can be treated and cured by bone marrow transplants, we believe that educating others of the importance of bone marrow donation and helping to offset the cost of being typed—the model we created and overwhelmingly succeeded with at Davidson College—will save thousands of lives in the future.