Chike Ononogbu is a fourth year pharmacy student. He was born in Nigeria, grew up in the Netherlands and moved to the U.S. when he started his undergraduate degree in Connecticut. He has family in Dallas and visits frequently.
In 2015, Chike made a visit to Dallas. When he attended church with his sister, there was a booth set up for bone marrow registration. To register to be a bone marrow donor, you take a cotton swab on a stick and swab the inside of your cheek. Approximately 1 in 300 people will be chosen as the best possible match for a patient and 1 in 430 people will actually donate their bone marrow.
A bone marrow transplant consists of replacing damaged bone marrow and stem cells with healthy bone marrow and stem cells. It is donated to cancer patients and they receive chemotherapy, which wipes our their immune systems, before the donation will occur.
Chike’s sister encouraged him to register and he thought to himself, how funny would it be if I did this and I was a match? Sure enough, about a year later, Chike was contacted by e-mail about being a match. At first, he thought the e-mails he was receiving were just spam. He didn’t pay attention to the calls he was getting because his blood type was O negative; the universal blood donor type.
When Chike finally realized he was being contacted about actually donating bone marrow, he was excited. He wanted to know if donating would be painful and he was assured that he would be asleep. The process before actually donating took about three months and consisted of lots of medical tests in Little Rock and Dallas.
About a week before the donation would occur, Chike found out that the donor was a 35-year old woman. She had leukemia and this donation would save her life. At this point in the process, Chike knew it was real.
“It was very eye-opening learning details about the patient,” Chike said, “I’m a very laid back person, but this really humbled me and made me ready to go through with the donation.”
After the donation took place, Chike knew this was the most rewarding and proud moment of his life. He didn’t have the chance to meet the patient he donated to, but he received updates three months, six months and a year after the donation took place. A year after the donation took place, he learned that the woman was cancer free. Chike said he would definitely donate again, given the opportunity.
Next week starting on Wednesday, April 5th, a bone marrow drive will be held in the Liberty Room of the Heritage building until Saturday, April 8th.
To the Harding student body, Chike would encourage everyone to donate.
“It takes like 30 seconds to donate and you have the potential to save someone’s life. It is such a rewarding opportunity and I dare you to register as a bone marrow donor. You could do something so big.”