2016 Eckerd graduate Colleen Owen is being praised as a hero for donating her bone marrow and spreading the word about the importance of bone marrow donation.

“When ECOS hosted a health and fitness fair in the Hough Quad my senior year, there was a Gift of Life table hosted by the EC Hillel group…I got a quick cheek swab and was on the registry. I figured I could always say no in the future if I changed my mind,” Owen said via email.  

In order to donate her peripheral stem cells she had to take a very in depth physical and psychological exam, blood tests and Neupogen injections for the five days leading up to the actual donation. Neupogen is taken by patients donating stem cells five days prior to donating in order to increase their stem cell counts in the peripheral circulatory system.

“I have a unique story in the fact that I got matched twice. The first call came mid-October 2016, just after I moved to Boston… Cue to Oct. 1, 2018 and I received a second call saying that incredibly I had matched again,” Owen said via email.

Owen said the procedure itself took six hours to complete and required her to be hooked up to a peripheral IV in her right forearm and a 14-gauge steel needle in her left inner elbow. Her blood was pulled out through her left arm and run through the aphaeresis machine that strains out plasma and blood cells. The leftover blood cells were then returned to her body through the PIV in her right arm along with normal saline and extra calcium.

A clinical assistant at the Boston Children’s Hospital ER, Owen was familiar with much of the process.

“I understood a lot of the medical jargon that was used and felt very comfortable being in a hospital setting, the IV being inserted, and the overall procedure.” Owen said via email.

By going to the swab drive, Owen wanted to continue to help others in need. She got a call from the Gift of Life Marrow Registry, who told her that she was a perfect match for a seriously ill patient in Florida in need of a stem-cell transplant. Owen decided to go donate her healthy marrow to the patient.

By United States law, transplant donors and recipients cannot learn one another’s identities for at least one year due to the HIPAA requirements that are in place to protect patients and donors. Owen had been informed that the recipient of her second donation was a 69-year-old male that she hoped to meet after the required amount of time has passed.

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