Bone marrow recipent appeals to campus community to Get Swabbed

If it weren’t for the compassion of a complete stranger, Jon Brent never would have lived long enough to experience the simple things in life so many of us take for granted.

“I got to go to high school and be on the wrestling team,” says Brent, a third-year economics major who received a life-saving bone marrow transplant almost 12 years ago. “I got to throw around a football. I got to write all these really difficult economics exams and learn how to take all the bad in life along with the good.”

Diagnosed with leukemia at the age of three, Brent went through three years of chemotherapy only to suffer a relapse with just a week left to go in his treatment protocol. On November 13, 1998 – his father’s  40th birthday – he received a bone marrow transplant. The donor was a young woman who lived in Waterloo.

“She was just a young girl at the time and she’s a wife and mother now,” he said. “We had a party on the 10th anniversary of the transplant and she came with her family. We’ve gotten together a few times, but we talked a lot more around the time of the transplant. We still keep in touch on Facebook.”

Knowing full well the critical value of having a wide variety of potential donors to choose from, Brent is encouraging as many people as possible to take part in the OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network’s Get Swabbed! event being held on campus tomorrow. Registrants provide a tissue sample by simply wiping the inside of their mouths with a cotton swab. The information is stored in a database which is used to find potential donors of bone marrow for cancer patients.

“It has to be a perfect match,” said Brent, who added that Canadian Blood Services, the association which oversees the registry, is in desperate need of male donors between the ages of 17 and 35 from diverse ethnic backgrounds.

If called upon, those people in the registry have the option of proceeding with donating their bone marrow. However Kyle Reid, a Windsor man who has gone through the process can’t see why anyone would opt out.

“People are dying all the time because we just don’t have enough,” said Reid, who several years ago donated plasma, from which doctors were able to take stem cells. Those stem cells are injected in the patient, which helps generate healthy new blood in their bone marrow.

Reid was warned he might experience headaches or flu-like symptoms, but said the whole process was simple – and extremely gratifying.

“I sat in a chair for three hours and I gave them 375 million stem cells,” he said. “I walked out of there feeling like a million bucks.”

Representatives of the Katlyn Bedard Bone Marrow Association will join student volunteers at three locations for tomorrow’s Get Swabbed! event: the CAW Student Centre Commons, the Toldo Health Education Centre, and the Human Kinetics Building, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.