Why I Donated Bone Marrow to a Guy in France

By Evan Elliot, USF News Posted Wed, 09/06/2017 - 00:00

Marketing major Brett Arakawa ’17 recently hooked himself to a machine that sucked his blood. Here’s how USF inspired him to do it.

What's the story?
I donated bone marrow cells at Alta Bates hospital in Berkeley. They were flown to France and transplanted into a 50-year-old man.   

How did this begin?
About two years ago, in the USF cafeteria, I saw a table with a sign that said, “Be The Match.” It was a bone marrow donation registration drive. I signed up and swabbed each cheek with a Q-tip to give them a tissue sample. It took five minutes.Then, two months ago, I got a call out of the blue from Be The Match. I didn’t even remember registering, but I was happy to hear from them.

Tell us about your bone marrow recipient.
All I know is he lives in France and has late-stage leukemia. My human genome matches his closely enough to make my blood cells compatible with his.

How does marrow donation work?
I received once-a-day injections for five days to boost the number of bone-marrow stem cells in my bloodstream. On the fifth day, a nurse hooked me to a machine that took my blood out of one arm, pulled the stem cells out of the blood, and returned the blood into my other arm. It wasn’t actually a bone marrow donation. It’s called a peripheral blood stem cell donation. It took about six hours.

What happened after you donated?
The recipient got my stem cells the next day. Five days earlier, he’d received a massive dose of chemotherapy to kill off his cancerous cells and prepare his body to accept my cancer-free stem cells. So far, he’s doing well. 

What would you tell a classmate who’s thinking about donating?
Go to join.bethematch.org/USF and learn about donating. Five minutes of your time now could mean years added to someone’s life later. The registry needs more people of color, especially multi-ethnic people like me.

What role, if any, did USF play in this? 
The USF student senate set up that registration table in the cafeteria. Also, freshman year, in my written and oral communications class, Associate Professor Leslie Dennen assigned a final paper on social justice and the common good. In my paper, I argued that altruism is a natural state: Many animals help each other even when they don’t get any obvious return from it. Humans are animals, too. USF cultivates altruism.

Know someone with a powerful USF story? Let us know! usfnews@usfca.edu Twitter @usfcanews