Berkeley College Student Shares His Bone Marrow Donation Story
My Donation Experience
Journey from the Berkeley College classroom to the Hackensack University Medical Center Operating Room
Written by John Cedeno - Berkeley College Management - Entrepreneurship Major
The starting point of my unbelievable journey was at the Paramus campus of Berkeley College. It all happened because of a professor, who may be the best professor ever, Dr. Melissa Baralt. From day one in her Bio-Ethics social science course, I thought to myself, “She is great. This class is going to be fun!” Never would I have thought just how important she would become to me.
In class we talked about multiple topics that were all interesting in their own way. One of the discussions that really stuck out to me was about donor babies. It was sad to learn about how families would birth babies just to support the lives of others. About a week after having that conversation, Professor Baralt brought in a guest speaker, Jackie, who was an agent for the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) Be The Match registry. Jackie presented to our class about bone marrow and how scarce the supply is. She explained what being on the registry meant, talked about some of the families that needed bone marrow, and how the registry was unable to always find a match. Once Jackie concluded her presentation she asked the class, “Would anyone like to join the registry?” Without hesitation, I was the first to raise my hand. Then Jackie handed me a questionnaire and provided me with instructions to join.
The first step to join the registry was to complete a questionnaire with about 50 questions on my medical and family history, including ethnic background and blood type. Once I completed the questionnaire, Jackie provided me with four cotton swabs to retrieve cells from my mouth; these were sent to the lab to see if I was a potential match.
Approximately two months after joining the registry, I received a call during my Organizational Behavior class at the Berkeley College Paramus campus. When I answered the call, I learned that I was a potential match for someone and I needed to have an HLA (Human Leukocyte Antigen) matching blood test to determine whether I was the best match. The day after that blood test, I received another call that changed my life: I was the best match for a 13-year-old boy.
Into the OR!
Once I agreed to the donation, there were a few steps I had to take before the operation. First, I had to complete a more detailed questionnaire. Then an information session with a doctor was conducted. The doctor explained the all the steps and risks prior to me providing the bone marrow. After the information session, a physical exam with blood and EKG (Electrocardiogram) chest X-Rays were required. Then a date for the operation was set, August 1.
In late July, I received a call that the recipient caught a pulmonary infection and the operation needed to be postponed. Another date in the second week of September was chosen.
On August 29 I received another call; the recipient was not doing well and the operation needed to be postponed once again. At that point, I was worried the recipient’s condition was going to worsen and that he would never be well enough to move forward with the procedure. Another date was set, October 9.
On October 9, the operation took place. It was an incredible experience that is hard to put into words.
All I can really say to people is that I did what I did solely because I was able to. I have always donated blood, ever since I was of age. If I personally have an abundance of something, why not give it to someone who needs it to live. I would go through this process again if I could, but I owe this experience, opportunity, and privilege to one person, Professor Melissa Baralt. I cannot thank her enough.