Not many people would go through a surgery to donate bone marrow to a stranger. But that’s not the case for Matthew Wenzel. A couple years ago, Matthew signed up with a group of friends on a whim to be potential donors through BeTheMatch.org, an organization that matches donors with patients diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses. “There was really no motivation to sign up other than there being a possibility that I might actually get called,” states Matthew.
After several years, Matthew was recently contacted as a potential match for a 14 year old boy with a case of leukemia who needed a bone marrow transplant. Matthew had to complete a blood draw in Rapid City, SD to test his HLA, which is a cell that has to match in order to be a donor. He got a call two weeks after to confirm he was a match.
Matthew then began the donation process, which first involved completing a 45-minute phone interview and then traveling to the University of Minnesota for a preliminary physical and testing to ensure he would be safe through the operation.
Last week Matthew completed the surgery, which involved extracting bone marrow from his pelvis through two incisions using a large syringe. The surgery took approximately one hour, and then Matthew spent around nine hours in the hospital recovering and being monitored.
“I feel really good after the surgery. Very minimal pain, just some soreness and physical fatigue.” Matthew’s bone marrow was given to the boy the night of the procedure and he will find out after 30 days if his body has accepted Matthew’s cells. “I’m incredibly excited for that.”
Overall, Matthew says the experience was incredible. “To be potentially able to personally save someone’s life is really an amazing feeling.”