Moravian student is a match
Rachel Knecht ’15 was selected earlier this year as a match for a 26-year-old battling non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The Moravian cheerleader signed up to be a donor at the Be The Match Foundation – Get in the Game, Save a Life event, hosted by the Greyhound football program the last three years.
“I was surprised to hear that I was a match just seven months after signing up, especially since people have been on the list for over 20 years and never selected as a match,” Knecht says. “I knew right away that donating the bone marrow was something I wanted to do as a perfect match. I think it’s great that Moravian’s football team holds the Be The Match donor registry drive at school every year.
“I would tell people that if you are on the fence about signing up, and I was one of them at first, it is something you should do because you have the potential to give someone a second chance at life. The process you go through as a donor can’t be any worse than the pain and suffering the person you are donating to has been going through,” she adds.
Thousands of patients with life-threatening diseases like leukemia, lymphoma or sickle cell anemia need a marrow transplant, but don’t have a match in their family. More than 70 percent of patients depend on the Be The Match Registry to find a match.
Since finding out she was a donor match, Knecht has gone through several steps with the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP). First, she received a 32-page booklet and had an interview to explain the entire process, followed by a physical exam and several blood tests. Once everything was confirmed, she headed to the nearest hospital that does the surgery to donate her bone marrow.
On average, the entire process can take 30 to 40 hours, including travel time, over four to six weeks, according to the NMDP. During that period and for at least a year after the surgery, Knecht will only know the disease, age and sex of the patient who will receive her bone marrow. The patient will also be unaware of the donor’s identity.
Knecht already has undergone surgery to remove liquid bone marrow for the patient. General or regional anesthesia is always used for this procedure, and the marrow replaces itself completely within four to six weeks.
“As a member of my team for two years, Rachel demonstrates her selflessness every single day in so many ways,” says Erin Oleksa, head cheerleading coach. “The fact that she donated bone marrow only adds to her already extraordinary character. Rachel is the epitome of generosity. I am very proud of her.”
Over the last three years, the Moravian football program has signed up 869 people to the Be the Match Registry, including 205 during the signup last April, which is when Rachel registered. Moravian has scheduled its 4th Annual Be The Match Bone Marrow Donation Registration event for today from 4 to 7 p.m. in Johnston Hall.
“Rachel’s chance to save someone’s life is a blessing, and an opportunity to do something for someone that will never be forgotten,” says Jeff Pukszyn, head football coach, who has helped organize the registration drives. “This is the second match we have been able to make through our school’s efforts, and hopefully we will continue to find more potential donors and have even more opportunities to save lives.”
Anyone between the ages of 18 and 60 can potentially save a life through this program.
About Be The Match
Be The Match is a movement that engages a growing community of people inspired to help patients who need a marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant from an unrelated donor. The National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP), a leader in the field of marrow and cord blood transplantation, created Be The Match to provide opportunities for the public to become involved in saving the lives of people with leukemia, lymphoma and other life-threatening diseases.
Volunteers can join the Be The Match Registry—the world’s largest and most diverse listing of potential marrow donors and donated cord blood units—as well as contribute financially to Be The Match Foundation or give their time. For more information, visit BeTheMatch.org or call 1 (800) MARROW-2.