When College of Pharmacy students Chase Snyder and Wendy Winkler-Mull participated in the University of Louisiana at Monroe’s Bone Marrow Drive—the largest one-day drive ever held—they didn’t think much of the 5 minutes required to swab their mouths with cotton.
When they discovered they were each matches for another person, Snyder and Winkler-Mull didn’t hesitate to donate their stem cells, or essentially pass on their healthy immune systems to the sick. Chase matches a one-year-old boy and Wendy matches a 45-year-old woman, both of whom suffer from leukemia.
Those are the only personal details Snyder, of Zachary, and Winkler-Mull, of Shreveport, know about the people they are helping. But it doesn’t matter. It’s enough.
While Snyder’s bone marrow harvest, which has not yet been scheduled, will be invasive—an incision will be made above Snyder’s lower pelvic bone and bone marrow containing stem cells will be extracted with a hollow needle—he is not scared.
“I am not really nervous about it. I am more anxious about whether or not the transplant works for the little boy. Any pain or discomfort I might possibly have is nothing compared to what this child has endured already or what he has to deal with in his future.”
When Winkler-Mull, who is scheduled to harvest her stem cells Sept. 10 and 11, thinks about the person she is helping, she thinks about that woman’s family.
“I never hesitated. I had a grandmother that died of leukemia 17 years ago, before many treatments were available. When they tell you the patient’s information, you think about their kids and grandkids losing a family member.”
Although Winkler-Mull’s procedure will be less invasive—stem cells will be extracted from her blood, instead of her hip bone like Snyder—her recovery time will be about the same as Snyder’s. Each donor will undergo the procedures as outpatients and both should fully recover within about 3 weeks.
Earlier this winter, both students were inspired to participate in ULM’s record-breaking bone marrow drive after they listened to the story of 10-year-old James Christopher Allums, son of Chris and Ellen Allums. James Christopher was diagnosed with Fanconi Anemia, a rare and life-threatening disease that causes bone marrow failure.
In February, ULM held its bone marrow drive in honor of the local child. As pharmacy dean Lamar Pritchard pointed out, the efforts of James Christopher and his mother triggered the compassion of more than 2,600 ULM faculty, staff, students and members of the Monroe community. Both mother and son spoke to ULM classes about the need for bone marrow donors and helped at the drive.
“Look at what this young man and his mother have done. Look at what they have passed forward, to other people around the country and around the world. If that little spark hadn’t happened; if he hadn’t passed the caring and compassion forward, this wouldn’t have happened.”
Snyder and Winkler-Mull are now giving hope to two sick people, and ultimately showcasing what they are learning in their classrooms.
“Admission to the College of Pharmacy is a tough process. We have many more applicants than we have slots. People often ask me, ‘Why don’t you look solely at GPA scores for admission?’ We look at more than just GPA scores. While we want students with high scholastic abilities, we also value human characteristics, such as caring and compassion. Those are paramount to being a quality health care professional. These two students are living examples of the importance of these humanistic traits. It makes me proud that they are ULM students.”
The likelihood of finding at least one match, by race, on the National Marrow Donor Program Registry (Information provided by NMDP):
- African Americans have a 59.5 percent chance of finding at least one potential match on the NMDP Registry
- Caucasians have an 87.5 percent chance
- Hispanics have an 80.5 percent chance
- Asians have a 78.1 percent chance
- American Indians and Alaskan Natives have an 81.5 percent chance
The NMDP has a registry of over 6 million people. However, what it really comes down to is donor availability.
How you can help
- 40.7 percent of African American donors are available when called to donate
- 69.7 percent of Caucasians are available
- 49.8 percent of Hispanics are available
- 47.6 percent of Asians are available
- 51 percent of American Indians and Alaskan Natives are available
Steve Lovelace, director of recruitment and community development for the National Marrow Donor Program, urges others to follow the lead of Snyder and Winkler-Mull.
“I was thrilled to hear that two ULM students were called to be potential donors,” said Lovelace. “By having diverse and committed donors on the National Marrow Donor Program Registry, we can continue to provide life-saving matches for patients in need of a transplant.”
Both Snyder and Winkler-Mull stressed how easy, open and honest working with the NMDP has been. For more information about joining the National Marrow Donor Program Registry, visit www.marrow.org or call 1 (800) MARROW-2.