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Marrow Donor Shows Life-Saving Process

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(credit: CBS) Reg Chapman
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — For the thousands of people diagnosed every year with life-threatening blood cancers like leukemia or lymphoma, there is a cure.

It lives inside of each and every one of us, and the only way to save a life is by donating marrow.

Over the past 25 years, Be the Match – operated by the National Marrow Donor Program – has provided more than 60,000 life-saving marrow transplants by matching donors with those in need.

James Jones, 26, is a junior majoring in linguistics at the University of Minnesota. He’s also preparing to donate marrow for someone in need of a transplant.

“It’s a pretty cool feeling,” Jones said.

His Captain America shirt expresses how he feels on this day; a superhero coming to the aid of someone in harm’s way.

“I think if you have the opportunity to help somebody you kind of have the responsibility to do it,” he said. “So even though there’s been some inconvenience, this is what I wanted to do.”

Jimmy, as his friends call him, has gone through a week of shots to stimulate his bone marrow. His diet was restricted, but he says it wasn’t enough to stop what he started eight years ago during a marrow drive at his school.

“They were just asking people to volunteer and just do the test and get it added to the registry, and didn’t end up being a match for that,” Jones said. “That was 2006, so I kind of forgot all about it. I didn’t even, you know, think about it all and then got the call a couple of months ago.”

During the process, Jones sits in a comfortable chair and wears a blanket to keep him warm as a machine draws life-saving cells from his blood.

Dr. Jeffery Chell, CEO of Be the Match, says donating marrow is a big commitment. He says more than half of those who register don’t follow through.

“For 75 percent of the people who are donating, we collect the cells that we needed out of the blood stream,” Chell said. “Join the registry, but understand that commitment to the registry. Your committed to help us save a life and often you might be the only person in the world that’s a best-possible match and can save that patient’s life.”

As Jones sits for six to eight hours, but he sees it as an honor.

“It’s weird to look at this machine and know that blood was just inside of me and then now it’s in that machine getting the good stuff taken out,” Jones said. “My arms are sore and my back kind of hurts a little bit, but, I don’t know, when you think about what it means for somebody else – it’s definitely worth it.”

Be the Match will hold its annual fun walk/run Saturday morning at Lake Harriet. The event village opens at 7:30 a.m.

Click here for more information on how to donate bone marrow.

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