Soldier embodies Army values with bone marrow donation
April 19, 2012
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- The Army Values of selfless service and personal courage are expected during the course of your daily duties as a combat veteran. Sometimes these values seem distant or not as essential in a garrison environment, and Soldiers long for the days of "immediate gratification" to see the results of their efforts. Last week, one officer from Company C, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment found a way to espouse those values by saving the life of a complete stranger.
Second Lt. Eric Bauer is the model of the modern prior-service officer. Eric is 30 years old, speaks Korean and Arabic, served with the 5th Special Forces Group in combat operations in western Iraq, and is currently serving as the executive officer for a Basic Combat Training company after receiving a commission from the University of Portland in 2010. He is married, and he and his wife, Melea, have two young sons, Ashur and Eli.
As a sergeant, Eric Bauer was at the Defense Language Institute in 2005, where he attended a briefing from the Department of Defense bone marrow program. The speakers stressed the importance of the program, how it operated, and how a donor is selected using exacting criteria that are tailored to the patient. Saliva or blood is donated and entered into a national database for matching. The donation criteria are so stringent that only about 39 percent of patients who are looking for transplants are able to find a match. Eric donated saliva that day and never expected to hear back from the program.
In February, Eric received notice from the C. W. Bill Young DoD Marrow Donor program that he was a potential match for a leukemia patient. Initially, he was told that the procedure would take place in six to nine months. The following week, he received another call -- the list had been drawn down to only him. He was told that the procedure would take place in Washington April 2, only weeks away.
The case manager sent him an exhaustive list of all the necessary testing to be completed for the final medical screening. He was sent two boxes of vials for blood samples on two different occasions and had to complete a rigorous physical that included a 12-page check list. Eric credits the "understanding folks at Moncrief (Army Community Hospital)" for acting quickly enough to make the donation possible. Eric was also required to bank a unit of his own blood through the American Red Cross.
The medical procedure he was soon to undergo is a grueling one and requires the utmost in personal courage. The donor is sedated and a hand-driven screw is used to bore into the center of each hip that leaves an opening in the bone. The hand drill is then removed and the marrow
extracted through the opening using a set of syringes. The bone marrow can then be inserted into the spine of the recipient and the body will use it to restore its own tissue that has been medically irradiated prior to the operation.
Eric's wife was unable to escort him to Washington for the procedure because of their two small children, so the DoD Marrow Donor program flew one of his friends from Portland, Ore., to Washington to assist in his recovery.
When he arrived in Washington on April 2, Eric was able to spend some time enjoying the city before the procedure the following day. Though he wasn't nervous about the procedure, he began to worry about the recovery process. The only information he was given about the recovery process was that each person reacts differently. The next day, a representative
from Georgetown Hospital met and escorted Eric and his friend to the operating room. Eric remembers meeting the anesthesiologist at 9:30 a.m. and then waking up groggy in the recovery room. The doctors were able to extract more than the normal amount of bone marrow, so he was kept in the hospital overnight for observation.
Eric experienced severe pain in his joints after the surgery, and his recovery was slower than he had hoped. Despite the pain, discomfort and the burden of recovery, one thing Eric has remembered is that this procedure has potentially saved the life of a person suffering from leukemia. Time is a critical component in fighting any disease and not something often afforded those with life threatening illness. Eric's selfless donation has at a minimum bought the patient precious time to fight the disease and potentially given the patient the key to beating leukemia entirely.
Bauer's example of personal courage and selfless service is one for others in our community to follow. His hope is that people will understand the importance of being screened for the potential to be a bone marrow donor.
For more information about this program, visit dodmarrow.org and learn about the procedure or how to donate.
Editor's note: A postwide bone marrow drive is planned for May 7-11. Volunteers are needed to help with the drive. For more information, contact Sgt. 1st Class Marilyn Shaw at 751-1741 or (910) 224-9816.