Words of Hope: Blakefield Graduate Becomes Bone Marrow Donor

Bone Marrow Donor Fights Leukemia, Gives 8 Year Old Hope.

“This is why we do what we do. . .”  Erik Sauer, There Goes My Hero Foundation Founder.

In May 2012, a Bone Marrow Drive dubbed “Senior Swab Day” took place at Loyola Blakefield. The drive was inspired by the “Join for Joe” effort in memory of Joe Gorman ’14. Joe’s classmates, Dan McLaughlin ‘14 and Danny Finley ’14 helped launch the effort on campus and continue to organize drives to get others to swab and enter into the donor database. (In 2011, Joe was the recipient of the “Children’s’ Hope Medal of Honor” presented by Heroes of Hope, a program under the World Health Foundation for his part in inspiring and assisting in a bone marrow drive that resulted in the registration of nearly 900 new bone marrow donors. He, himself, was the recipient of a bone marrow transplant.)

Austin Luera ’12 was aware of Joe’s courageous battle against leukemia and when it came time for Loyola seniors to volunteer to be swabbed, he seized the opportunity. “There is nothing inconvenient about getting swabbed and being entered as a donor,” said Luera. “It’s something that anyone can and should do.”

The summer months passed and Luera was off to the University of South Carolina where he now studies Exercise Science and takes part in the ROTC program. His first semester of college began like any other, but in mid-September his mother received a phone call from DKMS (a German Bone Marrow Donor Center) informing her that her son was considered a viable match for an eight-year old boy battling leukemia.

When Luera heard the news, he immediately knew that this was his chance to help save a life. “I had a younger cousin who passed away at a very young age due to a brain tumor and my family has been very involved in fundraising efforts to assist other families as they struggle through the hardships that come along with having children battling a life-threatening illness,” said Luera. “As soon as the situation was explained to me, I made the decision to become a bone marrow donor.”

Working with a medical team at Georgetown University, Luera underwent several additional screenings, sometimes stopping into his campus wellness center to have tests administered then shipped north for further evaluation. “The coordination and understanding between the medical staff, the wellness center at the university and DKMS was amazing and made this process run very smoothly,” said Luera.

After weeks of waiting, Luera was set to travel to Georgetown for his bone marrow procedure. “I was fully committed to the process, but admittedly asked the doctors to tell me as little as necessary about the procedure,” said Luera. “Essentially they made two incisions on either side of my hip bone and went in 15 times on each side to extract the necessary amount of bone marrow.”

Although aware of the eventual pain and discomfort following the procedure, Luera is thankful to have the support of his teachers and ROTC instructors. “There is a period of recovery and everyone at the university could not be more understanding,” said Luera. “The healing process has gone fast and I’ll ease back into physical training soon.”

Any after-effects of the procedure were never part of the equation in Luera’s decision. “I might feel a little pain for a few weeks, but when you have a young person dealing with something much more serious, you need to think beyond yourself and do whatever you can to help them,” said Luera.

A native of Towson, MD, Austin Luera is a graduate of Loyola Blakefield’s Class of 2012. For more information about DKMS visit: www.dkmsamericas.org.

This article was posted on the Loyola Blakesfield Website on 11/29/2012 by the Loyola Blakesfield News