Why Cameron Lyle is My Hero
I've never met Cameron Lyle. As a matter of fact, I'd never even heard of him before today. But Cameron Lyle is my new hero.
Cameron Lyle is a 21 year old who put his athletic career on the back burner during his senior year of college at the University of New Hampshire when he found out that he was the ONLY bone marrow match for a complete stranger who was batting blood cancer.
Cameron was told if he donated his bone marrow to this stranger, it would end his college career, but it would save a life. Cameron picked saving a life without even double thinking about it.
I love Cameron. I love that he is an unselfish human being who recognized what was the most important thing to do and did it with no regrets or backward glances.
I know the importance of being a bone marrow donor first hand because my Dad has a rare form of cancer called myleofibrosis and his only chance at living was a bone marrow transplant. A few months ago I thought my Dad wouldn’t be part of my life much longer. I was preparing myself for the worst and then a stranger gave my Dad some of their bone marrow. I’m happy to say that my Dad’s body has begun to heal and the doctors are optimistic that he’ll be around for much longer than we thought this time last year.
The more I talk to people about being a bone marrow donor, the more frustrated I get. There’s a major and urgent need for bone marrow and yet nobody really knows anything about it. And there are a lot of myths that scare people away. So I’m going to dispel some of those myths right now.
- Myth #1: You must go to a clinic to get tested and it involves a Goliath of a needle scary enough to make grown men cry. I hear this all the time and it’s not true. It all starts with a simple swab test. You send away for the kit, it comes in the mail, you swab your cheeks and send it off and they add you to the database. Of course there will be needles eventually. How else will they get the bone marrow out of you? But that doesn’t come until much later. And if you’ve survived an epidural and child birth you’re gonna be just fine with the procedure.
- Myth #2- It costs an arm and a leg to donation if you end up being a match and it does funky things with your medical insurance. Actually, no. If you register to be a bone marrow donor with the National Marrow Donor Program, they won’t pay you for your marrow, but they’ll cover medical costs, reimburse all travel costs and provide other assistance as well. Can’t promise your boss will be so cool with giving you time off to save a life, but if they’re jerks about it, shame on them.
- Myth #3- Once registered to be a bone marrow donor you can’t change your mind and if you’re a match you’ll be hunted down and forced to go through the procedure. As far as I know, we still live in a free country. And while I think it’d be pretty crummy of you to be a match for someone and then back out, it’s still your choice. If you change your mind that’s cool. But what’s not cool is dodging calls from the registry. If you’re a match for someone and you don’t have the guts to tell them you don’t want to donate, they won’t know to start looking for another donor right away and you can really put the person in need at risk of losing their life.
Here are the two ways a person can donate bone marrow according to the National Marrow Donor Program:
- PBSC Donation (this is the procedure my Dad had that appears to be working): Peripheral blood stem cell donation is the most common form of donating. This is a non-surgical procedure (yay!). For 5 days before donation, the donor receives daily injections of a drug that increases blood forming cells in the bloodstream. On the 5th day, the donor’s blood is removed through a needle in one arm and passed through a machine that separates out the blood forming cells. The remaining blood is returned to the donor through the other arm. Donors may experience headache, bone or muscle aches for several days before collection. These side effects typically disappear shortly after donation within 1 to 2 days.
- Marrow Donation: Yeah- this is the one that people don’t like too much, but suck it up buttercup! You’re saving a life! Marrow donation is a surgical procedure. While the donor is under anesthesia, the doctor uses needles to withdraw liquid marrow from the back of the pelvic bone. After donation, marrow donors can expect to feel some soreness in the lower back for a few days to several weeks. Marrow donors are typically back to their usual routine in 2 to 7 days.
Registering to be a bone marrow donor literally only takes a few minutes and in the end you could help save a life. So the next time you see your doctor ask if he or she thinks you’re a good candidate to be a bone marrow donor and if so, ask how you can get registered. Who knows? You might up saving a life. A life like my Dad’s.
I've signed up to be a bone marrow donor. Have you? No? What are you waiting for? Click this to find out how to take the steps that could end up saving a life.