“It was an experience of a lifetime.”
Most people wouldn’t say that when talking about their hospital stay, but to Andrew Greiner ’14 , it describes his feelings perfectly.
Andrew’s story begins during Homecoming 2011, when he volunteered through the College’s Pre-Health Club to work at an event sponsored by Hillel, a student-led organization that supports and encourages the exploration of Jewish life and culture.
Andrew and other volunteers conducted screenings for bone marrow donations among the football crowd at Frank B. Fuhrer Field. They asked people to swab the inside of their cheeks to see if they could be bone marrow donors. The swabs then were sent to the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation, a registry helping children and adults find donors for transplants.
According to Hillel advisor Rachel Dingman, Allegheny students are known for giving back to their communities. Of that event, she says: “We received an overwhelming amount of support from our students, collecting 200 to 300 swabs in just one day. The event also gave Pre-Health Club volunteers the opportunity to learn more about the donation process.”
Andrew, a biology major and psychology minor, had no reservations about participating in the on-campus donor-identification effort. Although he hoped he could help someone in need, he was aware of the odds: On average, one in 1,000 Gift of Life donors are asked to donate every year.
Several months passed before Andrew received “the call” – the one explaining that he was a potential donor. “I was shocked,” he said. “The organization said I was a potential match for a 38-year-old man with leukemia. I immediately knew I wanted to help.”
Andrew underwent several rounds of testing, both in Meadville and in New York City where the donation would eventually take place. “All of the tests confirmed I was a match. Since I’m hoping to one day be a physician’s assistant, I was very interested in the clinical side of the process.”
On May 3, 2012, Andrew was admitted to Mount Sinai Hospital. He spent six hours, over a two-day period, connected to the necessary medical equipment and ended up donating more than 1 billion stem cells. “For me, the entire process was virtually pain-free; in fact, after I was finished, I was able to walk around and enjoy New York City. It was an experience of a lifetime.”
Although Andrew knows very little about the recipient of his selfless act, he has sent a letter to him through the Gift of Life organization and hopes to one day receive a response. Still, he is grateful just for the opportunity to make a difference.
“Having an on-campus event like this gave me the chance to participate in something that I would not have otherwise known about,” Andrew said. “I’m grateful for experiences like this at Allegheny that allow students to give back.”