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Student encourages transplant awareness

| Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Following her uncle’s illness and her own experience as a registered donor, Saint Mary’s junior Krista Ury is looking to raise awareness about BetheMatch.org, an online bone marrow registry.

Ury, a junior nursing major, said she was inspired to join the registry after her uncle, a Notre Dame graduate, received a bone marrow transplant through Be the Match.

The transplant helped lengthen his life, combating his Leukemia, but Ury said her uncle ended up dying of liver complications.

Ury said she joined the registry in June and was matched in September with an 11 year-old boy, who ultimately was paired with another donor, and in November with a 15 year-old boy for whom she was a perfect match.

Ury said she was surprised to be matched with anyone so quickly because her parents have been in the bone marrow registry for 10 years and have never been considered a match for a transplant.

Ury is grateful for the opportunity to give back and she said she feels her uncle with her every step of the way.

“It’s just pretty incredible that I joined because of my uncle and I’ve gotten two calls about two young boys,” Ury said. “I swear it’s part of him trying to spread the word about [Be the Match] through me.”

Ury said she never felt alone throughout the entire process and talked with the coordinator every day before the transplant.

Ury said common notions about bone marrow transplants focus on a particular method that involves drilling into your bones and a fair amount of pain. Ury was scheduled for the more common procedure in which the actual transplant takes about four hours and the patient is conscious.

“The process was not scary whatsoever. It’s scary beforehand not knowing what to expect, but a lot of people have this [idea] that they drill into your hip. My process was called a peripheral blood stem cell transplant,” Ury said. “So basically my process was injections five days before the transplant.

“It was cool because I’m a nursing student and I got to give myself three of the injections at school.”

The transplant was scheduled for Dec. 23 in Seattle, but Ury said when she landed in her home state of California on Dec 21, she learned that the boy had slipped in a coma and died suddenly.

She said the procedure she would have undergone involved sifting the necessary cells from her blood.

“If I would have gone to Seattle, which is where the transplant was supposed to be, they would have hooked me up to a machine, an IV in each arm and sift off my stem cells in the machine. It’s almost like dialysis. You’re blood runs out one arm and back through the other.”

Ury said that the whole process is confidential until the transplant, but when the transplant didn’t happen she got a different kind of closure when she heard from the boy’s family.

“The family reached out to the coordinator and said ‘we are so grateful you gave us hope during Christmas. You gave my son happiness and that’s a great gift you can give someone,’” she said. “That’s why I really want to let people know about [Be the Match] because, yeah shots are never fun, but when it comes to there’s young person and you could save their life, there’s no comparison.”

Ury said anyone can log on to BetheMatch.org and sign up. The site sends a package with a swab in it and only a cheek swab is needed to enter the registry.

“It’s very simple to join. I think just a lot of people don’t know about it,” she said. “I think if people actually do the research and look into it they’ll be really surprised about how easy it is to help someone else.”

Be the Match covers all costs before the transplant including medical bills and transportation costs, Ury said.

“The process was painless compared to what [the patients] had to go through,” she said.

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About Haleigh Ehmsen

A senior at Saint Mary's, Haleigh is majoring in Communication Studies and English Literature & Writing. She serves as the Saint Mary's editor and enjoys coffee, guacamole and good books.

Contact Haleigh