Six years ago, my dad had a transplant. I’d never heard of marrow or stem cell transplants before then; very few people in my town of about 1,700 had.
Watching my dad go through transplant and recovery really opened my eyes to what I can do for a career in the future and even right now. When I needed to do a big project for school, I decided to educate people in our area about transplants and marrow donation.
Helping with marrow drives
I went to Inland Northwest Blood Center (a Be The Match partner) and asked what I could do. I was only 15, so I was too young to join the registry myself. They told me that I could help hold marrow drives as long as I had an adult with me. So I went with Inland Northwest Blood Center staff to a drive at Eastern Washington University and learned how to sign people up for the Be The Match Registry. I told students there about my dad and helped them to join the registry.
I went on to help with a drive at my own school and other schools and at our local American Cancer Society Relay for Life event. Everyone was surprised by the numbers of people who joined the registry from such a small community.
Speaking in schools and the community
I also wanted to educate other high school kids, since they would be 18 soon. Then when they had the chance to join later, in college or somewhere, they’d already know about the registry and be interested in joining. I made a PowerPoint presentation and went to four schools in my area, where I spoke to juniors and seniors about the registry and shared my story of how my dad’s transplant had affected my family.
After I’d spoken at a couple schools, a member of my community asked if I’d be speaker of the month for a Northwest Bank speaking series in Spokane. I went with my parents and spoke to the employees. I did my usual presentation, then my dad spoke about his transplant experience and my mom spoke about being a caregiver. The bank had an employee facing transplant at the time, so they had lots of questions about the transplant experience. I felt being invited to speak there was quite an honor. The CEO even came down and talked with me after the presentation.
Father’s transplant is life-changing
Watching my father go through transplant and recovery has really made a difference in my life. It’s opened my eyes to what’s available to me for work, and I’ve decided the medical field is where I want to be. I want to become a pediatric oncologist.
My school project is done – I gave my report and the teachers said it was one of the biggest projects they’d ever seen. But I’m still helping with marrow drives. I want to do what I can to make a difference. I thought that helping with the marrow drives and with blood drives, taking my time to volunteer was a great way to give back to these organizations that helped my dad. Anyone can find a way to help.