Cameron Lyle gave up his collegiate athletic career to donate bone marrow to a young man with leukemia.
‘I never had a second thought’: College athlete gives up dream to save stranger’s life
Cameron had registered to be a bone marrow donor two years previously, and was told that the chances that he would be a match were extremely small. However, he was a match, for a 28 year old man who he’d never met, who had been given just months to live. Cameron didn’t think twice about donating, and his decision changed both of their lives forever.
“It was kind of a no-brainer for a decent human,” says bone marrow donor on giving up career
Cameron Lyle, 21, had his mouth swabbed to join a bone marrow registry one day in the cafeteria at school. He didn’t think any more of it until a two years later when he got a phone call that he might be a match. He took more tests and discovered a month later that he was a perfect match.
“When they first told me, I was like, ‘OK, cool. I’m definitely going to do it,’” Lyle told ABC News. “After that I kind of went to tell my coach and then I realized slowly that my season was over.” Lyle’s main events were the shot put and the hammer throw.
“It’s just a sport,” he said. “Just because it’s Division I college level doesn’t make it any more important. Life is a lot more important than that, so it was pretty easy.” Lyle competed in his last competition and said it was “kind of emotional.” His teammates rallied around him to cheer him on.
The person who needed his help was a young man with leukemia. Lyle was told that the man only has six months to live without the transplant.
Lyle of Plaistow, New Hampshire, said he had been told there was a one-in-five-million chance for a non-family match.
“It was kind of a no-brainer for a decent human,” Lyle said. “I couldn’t imagine just waiting. He could have been waiting for years for a match. I’d hope that someone would donate to me if I needed it.”
Lyle made the bone marrow donation at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital. A needle was used to withdraw liquid bone marrow from his pelvic bone. After the surgery, he was not allowed to lift more than 20 pounds over his head, which ruled out all his athletic events. Lyle’s donation meant missing the Penn Relays and other events where he wanted to shine after eight years of shot put training.
“But it’s OK,” he said. “It was worth it. I would do it again, too.”
Lyle and the man had to remain anonymous to each other for at least a year, but could then sign consent forms to release their identities if they want. “I really want to meet him,” Lyle said, “and I hope he wants to meet me.”
Fortunately, both Cameron and his recipient recovered well following the procedure. Cameron even received a heartfelt letter from the man he had saved.
Since his bone marrow donation, Lyle has become a huge activist for Be The Match and encourages all to join the registry. In the first three months after he made headlines, Be The Match registrations tripled.
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For the thousands of people diagnosed every year with life-threatening blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma, a cure exists. Over the past 30 years Be The Match® , operated by the National Marrow Donor Program® (NMDP), has managed the largest and most diverse marrow registry in the world. We work every day to save lives through transplant.