A SUNY Potsdam student is about to give one little girl a gift that could save her life. Rosie Shrout, a senior psychology major from Rochester, N.Y., will undergo a procedure on Tuesday to extract bone marrow to donate to an 11-year-old girl who has non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Shrout found out that she was the preferred donor for the sick child after having her DNA collected at a Be The Match Registry drive held on the SUNY Potsdam campus in October 2009. Sponsored by the College’s Pre-Health Club, the drive collected their information for the National Marrow Donor Program.
“My roommates and I decided to go down one day because we had time on our lunch break. We filled out a bunch of paperwork and all they do is take a swab of your cheek and put it in an envelope,” she said.
After being told in March 2010 that she was a potential match for the patient, Shrout had her blood drawn and tested. Finally in June, the student was informed that she was the donor of choice to help the girl.
“When you’re put in the registry, it’s not that likely that you will actually be a match for someone eventually. So to get a call within a year of joining, I was taken aback,” Shrout said. “People have asked if I’m scared to donate, and I just am not. It’s a little nervewracking, but I’m actually kind of excited. The fact that she’s only 11 years old makes it all worth it.”
Bone marrow transplants are a life-saving treatment for people with leukemia, lymphoma and many other diseases. After undergoing chemotherapy and radiation to destroy their diseased marrow, patients receive a donor’s healthy blood-forming cells. In order for a patient’s immune system to accept the healthy cells, he or she must have a donor who is a close genetic match.
Marrow donation is a surgical outpatient procedure. Shrout’s procedure will be performed at Strong Memorial Hospital in her home city of Rochester, N.Y. She will receive anesthesia before a doctor uses a needle to withdraw liquid marrow from the back of her pelvic bone.
Shrout, who is a Presidential Scholar at SUNY Potsdam, is comfortable in the hospital setting. She is spending the summer interning at two North Country health care institutions—the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center in Ogdensburg and the chemical dependency services unit at Canton-Potsdam Hospital. She is also the captain of the women’s swim team at SUNY Potsdam.
“A bunch of people on the swim team are in the Pre-Health Club, and they were just in awe. They were really happy because they were the ones who brought the registry here. They tell me every day how proud they are, but I feel like it could have been anyone,” Shrout said.
According to the National Morrow Donor Program, most patients—about 70 percent—do not have a matching donor in their family. That’s why they turn to their registry, which includes more than 8 million potential donors in the U.S., and 5 million internationally.
“Sometimes the best chance that someone has for surviving the disease is with a complete stranger,” said Dr. Brian Snee, who also is on the registry.
An associate professor of English and communication at SUNY Potsdam, Snee first signed up on the registry after being tested to see if he was a match to help his brother, who had leukemia. Eventually, doctors chose a stranger from the registry as a better match and performed the transplant. Ten years later, Snee says his brother would not be alive today if not for the procedure—and the help of a stranger.
“I was the biological brother, and I didn’t match. Very often it’s a random person like this student,” he said. “It’s strange—you’re never going to go out there and meet the person who most needs you.”
Shrout said that she doesn’t know any more details about the patient she’s donating to other than her age, sex and illness, but will be able to send a note along with her marrow. The patient and her family can choose to contact the SUNY Potsdam student if they would like to.
“I’m going to put a note that says I’m thinking of her,” Shrout said. “If they happen to contact me eventually, that would be awesome, but this is a very difficult time for them right now, so I understand if they don’t.”
After finding out that she was a match for someone in need, Shrout wants to promote the Be The Match Registry to students throughout the State University of New York system, so that more matches can be made—and lives saved.
Since 1987, the National Marrow Donor Program has facilitated more than 40,000 marrow and cord blood transplants for patients who do not have matching donors in their families. To find out more, visit www.marrow.org.
Founded in 1816, and located on the outskirts of the beautiful Adirondack Park, The State University of New York at Potsdam is one of America’s first 100 colleges. SUNY Potsdam currently enrolls approximately 4,350 undergraduate and graduate students. Home to the world-renowned Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam is known for its handcrafted education, challenging liberal arts and sciences core, excellence in teacher training, and leadership in the performing and visual arts.