Jennie's Life Blood
My friend Jennie Crossen is by no means average, but she does not view herself as extraordinary either. Jennie sees herself as a normal college student, but on May 8th she donated a part of her life to try and save another's. She gave her bone marrow to a 51 year-old woman with leukemia, a woman she has never met.
"We had a blood drive in high school," Jennie said. "Once you are 18 you can check a box agreeing to be contacted if you end up being a potential match for somebody."
Almost three years later in February 2002, Jennie received a call from the American Red Cross telling her that she was a potential match for someone. The Red Cross wanted to know if she was still willing to participate in more tests to find the most compatible person. She was told there were about 10 people in the nation that were potential matches.
Jennie had eight vials of blood drawn for further testing. The Red Cross told her they would send a letter if she wasn't a match. Otherwise, she would hear from them in one to two months.
At the end of March, the Red Cross called back. She was the best match. Six different blood elements were tested; Jennie matched five completely and was about a 3/4 match of the sixth. "It is rare to be that close of a match without being a blood relative," Jennie said.
In April, Jennie went for a complete physical exam by one of the doctors who would perform the surgery. The doctor had to make sure she would be able to sustain the surgery and that it would be no threat to her.
The doctor told her that the surgery would entail having two quarts of bone marrow extracted from her hip bones. Jennie would probably be released the same day the surgery took place and should expect to be sore for a couple of months.
Normally, after a procedure like this, the receiving patient gets the donation within 24 hours; however, in this case it took a little longer because the patient lives overseas. She did not know this at the time of the surgery.
"I didn't think it was that big a deal until I realized I was a match," Jennie said. "There wasn't a question in my head. It didn't seem like something that was going above and beyond."
Jennie was left with two very small scars on her lower back from the surgery and was given medication to help dull the pain. She still felt a great deal of pressure on her lower back, but not the sharp pain she got without the medication.
"It's weird. Being only 21, I feel like I am not old enough to significantly impact someone's life," Jennie said. "It seems odd to me that I could possibly save this woman's life which was being cut short by cancer."
The process hit close to home for Jennie as her uncle has been in the hospital since Christmas.
"He needs a heart transplant," Jennie said, her brown eyes fixed on the floor. "He didn't do anything wrong or unhealthy. It's genetic. I hope there is a donor for him. People told me I have good karma, so I hope my good karma goes to him and he'll get a heart."
Jennie's wish is that people realize the importance of donating blood.
"So many people say they'd only donate if it was for a family member or close friend," she said. "This woman is someone's family and someone's friend. Obviously no one she knows is a match, and the fact that you'd be able to help a perfect stranger is great."
Three weeks after the surgery, Jennie received a call from the Red Cross representative who told her the transplant was successful. As far as the doctors could tell, the woman's body is not rejecting the bone marrow.
"After being in pain and pretty out of it for the past few weeks, it makes me really happy to hear that everything went well," Jennie said. "I feel good, and I think it will actually work for her."
-- Heather Thompson, University of Oregon intern.