Cameron Lyle never thought a decision he made two years ago could impact his senior track season. When University of New Hampshire athletes were encouraged to join the national bone marrow registry, he had his cheek swabbed and thought that was all of the good he could do — only 1 in 5 million people end up being a match for non-family members.
But in March, the UNH thrower learned he was a 100% match for anonymous donor somewhere in the United States. This meant he had to decide between finishing his senior track season — he throws shotput — and donating bone marrow, which would put him out of commission for the rest of the season.
Luckily, the decision wasn't a difficult one.
"I knew right away I was definitely going to donate," said Lyle. "I was pretty terrified at first, but it is starting to settle in."
Lyle will join the roughly 2,000 people per year who are called to donate bone marrow to a family member or, in his case, a complete stranger. Over 70% of marrow donations are called upon from the registry, upon which only 2% of Americans are listed. At any given time there are 7,500 people are searching the registry for an unrelated donor, and at least 1,000 will die every year from not getting the necessary transplant.
Thanks to Lyle's generosity, he will be able to save a 28-year-old male who is suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The two may keep in contact anonymously for the year following the procedure, after which they can sign consent forms to reveal their identities.
"I'd love to meet him someday," Lyle said. "He's not that much older than myself. I just can’t imagine what he’s going through."
He will undergo the donation procedure on April 24, after which he will not be able to compete in the shotput for the rest of the season. Donors are unable to lift over 20 pounds above their heads for almost a month following donation. This doesn't seem to faze Lyle in the least.
"He has six months to live and I have the possibility to buy him a couple more years," he said.
Lyle's track coach, Jim Boulanger, completely supported his decision.
"I told him, you either do 12 throws at the conference championships, or you give another man a few more years," he said. "It was easy for me."
But perhaps the most support comes from Christine Sciacca, Lyle's mother, who burst into tears upon her son telling her the emotional news.
"He's my hero," Sciacca said. "I couldn't be more proud of him and how he's been so humble about it."
To volunteer to donate bone marrow is a heroic act in its own right, but to give up the end of one's final track season is another matter entirely. Lyle's choice to put someone else's quality of life over his athletic career is a valiant display of selflessness and kindness.
You can get more information about bone marrow donation and learn how to join the registry at the National Marrow Donor Program's website, Be The Match.