Lindsey Van donates bone marrow for second time in eight months
December 27, 2011
Lindsey Van said she didn’t blink.
For the second time in eight months, the Park City resident and 2009 women’s ski jumping world champion was asked to endure the painful process of donating bone marrow to a complete stranger stricken with cancer.
"I didn’t expect it," she said, "but I wasn’t hesitant. It was a very easy choice for me; I’d want someone to do it for me or my family. Of course, it’s a rigorous process, but if I can help save a guy’s life, I’m going to make that decision every single time."
But this time was a bit different this time they would need twice the number of stem cells Van had donated in the spring. The process of donating is anonymous and Van still has never met the man whose life she has helped. She says every person has different types of bone marrow and, often, family members don’t match up enough to donate. Out of the criteria on "Be The Match" on http://www.marrow.org , Van and the anonymous recipient matched up 10 out of a possible 10.
"I was a perfect match," she said. "I hope it brings to attention how easy it is to do and how easy it is to save a life. Hopefully, it will encourage more people to sign up. That’s why I chose to do it."
Van had to travel to San Francisco, Calif., twice to donate: once for a variety of physical tests to ensure she was healthy enough to donate and then later to go through the donation process itself. Van eventually found out the recipient’s cancer was in remission her initial donation had saved his life and the additional donation of recent cells would be made available for the patient should more treatment be necessary in the future.
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According to a press release from Women’s Ski Jumping USA, "Blood is removed through a needle in one arm and cycled through an aphaeresis machine, which separates and collects blood-forming cells, platelets and some white blood cells from the bloodstream. Plasma and red blood cells were then returned back to her through a needle in the other arm. A healthy person’s body, like Van’s, will regenerate the donated cells within four to six weeks."
"If I’m doing it, I’m doing it," Van said. "I definitely knew there’d be the same kind of physical change, that there would have been bone pain and tiredness, but it’s nothing that I wouldn’t do again."
With her second successful donation completed, the 27-year-old Van will return to the painstaking process of getting back into athletic shape after off-season surgery in October that entailed cysts being removed from her ankle. She has already missed the inaugural women’s ski jumping World Cup event in Lillehammer, and is aiming to get back on the jumping hill on Jan. 6 in Germany.
"It was kind of lucky timing," she said. "Things happen for a reason."
"Obviously, this is a huge show of character for Lindsey," said coach Alan Alborn in a release. "She’s confident enough in her jumping that she knew she could take this on, and I knew she could handle it too.
"This means so much for Lindsey to donate, and it’s far better to do something like this for someone else, to then give herself inspiration. I know her results will reflect that."
Van’s acts of selflessness over the last eight months have already saved a life, but she said there’s more work to do.
"There’s more than 10,000 people in the U.S. that need a bone-marrow transplant," she said, "and less than half the people get it."
For more information on Be The Match or more information on donating, visit http://www.marrow.org .