Olympic Athlete 1 in 22 Million

The University of Sioux Falls Service Core hosted a bone marrow drive to educate students about the dire need for more donors. Currently, only four out of ten people who need a bone marrow transplant will find a match.

“If Christine had not become a donor I would not be here telling you this story today. It’s as simple as that; we’re talking life and death. Most people do not know that they can become donors. And they can register and they can potentially save a life,” Earl Young says.

Young, a Track and Field Olympic gold medalist (1960), was diagnosed with leukemia and was he was given only three months to live.

“It all happened in one day. I went in to get a sniffle and a cough taken care of. I figured I would get a shot, and by three o’clock in the afternoon an oncologist told me I had three months to live,” Young says.

After his diagnosis, he was immediately hospitalized. Over the next four months, Young underwent four rounds of chemotherapy as doctors were searching for a bone marrow donor.

“I knew nothing about leukemia; I did not think there would be any trouble finding a donor. I just assumed it was something easy to find,” Young says.

As doctors searched furiously for a match, Young’s immune system was beginning to fail. The doctors kept finding close matches, but none of them were perfect. They needed that perfect match to ensure that Young’s cancer would not return. On a stroke of luck, they found one.

“In Offenburg, Germany two weeks before I was diagnosed, a lady named Christine Wag had become a bone marrow donor,” Young says. “Christine was the only match out of the 22 million that were on file in the national registry.”

Becoming a donor is easy and takes about 5-7 minutes; just fill out a quick questionnaire and swab the inside of your mouth.

“If someone is found to be a match for a patient in need, then we would send them a pretty extensive healthcare questionnaire to make sure that they are in good shape to be a donor,” says Carol Golpin, Donor Recruitment Coordinator at DKMS (Dynamic Kernel Module Support). Since DKMS is an international company, it increases the likelihood of an individual finding a donor match.

During the drive the USF Service Core added 224 new members to the national bone marrow registry. If you missed the chance to sign up, then you can go to dkms.org to become a bone marrow done and help delete blood cancer. 


Story by Whitney Fryer , Jill Langland, & Casey Kelderman