Extracting the marrow
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

When asked, individuals who are thinking of joining the military will provide a number of reasons - economics, they need a job; to build a better future by having the military pay for college, so they can get a job; tradition…my father and my father's father (or mother) served.

When you dig a little deeper, many of those who join say they also want to make a difference, they have a desire to serve.

There is no argument that every one of us in uniform is making the world a better place. Maybe I'm biased in saying that, but I truly believe that, as the Navy slogan says, "We are a global force for good." Whatever advertising agency came up with that one for the Navy, bravo.

Some go a step further by volunteering in their military and-or civilian communities.

And some take it to the next level.

1st Sgt. Christina Mitchell donated bone marrow in August.

Mitchell is the Alpha Co., 47th Combat Support Hospital First Sergeant and, like any First Sergeant, spends a lot of time making a difference in the lives of her Soldiers and has now made a difference in someone else's life, someone she does not, and may never know.

Mitchell registered for the CW Bill Young Department of Defense Bone Marrow Donation Program in 2006 while assigned to Schofield Barracks, HI.

The program is named for Congressman C.W. Bill Young, who championed the National Marrow Donor Program for volunteer marrow donors. The Department of Defense program is part of the national program and coordinates marrow and hematopoietic stem cell donations of volunteer military personnel and civilian DoD employees.

According to the NMDP, each year more than 12,000 people are diagnosed with diseases that require an infusion of stem cells and more than 70% are unable to find an appropriate match within their own family and will require an unrelated donor.

Mitchell says it was very easy. The clinic held a bone marrow drive and nearly everyone in her unit signed up by registering with the DoD, and then a cheek swab was taken to get them into the registry.

"Out of the blue I received a call saying I was a possible match for a 61 year-old with Myelodysplastic Syndrome, a type of cancer that effects a person's ability to make new blood cells."

After a more comprehensive test it was determined that she was the best match. She was put in touch with a DoD transplant coordinator who got everything set up and was flown to Scripps Green Medical Center in La Jolla, Cal. along with her mother as an escort to help her out. Everything paid for by the program.

"Many people think it's a very painful process, it's not," says Mitchell.

"I received 10 injections of a drug called Neuprogen over five days. The drug causes your body to produced additional stem cells which are released into your blood, these extra stem cells make your bones and joints ache," which is really not painful she says.

On the 5th day two IV's are placed into the donors arms, one to draw blood and collect stem cells and the other to return unused blood, which takes about 4-6 hours.

Mitchell says that most of the symptoms were gone the next day and she was allowed to fly back home with just some lingering fatigue and minor joint aches.

"I know how hard it is to find a [bone marrow] match and how important this is to a recipient, so we had no problem allowing her to go on permissive TDY to do this," said her commander Capt. Anthony Salvant.

"This is just another example of her selflessness and leadership, which epitomizes who she is and what she's about," he added.

Mitchell says she will get updates on the health of the recipient at 30 days and six months. At the one-year mark the recipient may agree to meet with her, and at that time she and the recipient may actually find out who the other is. It is, however, a choice, and Mitchell may never find out who she helped. That is something she is okay with.

"Even if I don't find out who it is, it's good to know that I may have saved a life," she added.

Sounds about right from a U.S. Army Soldier.

For more information on the National Marrow Donor Program, go to: https://www.salutetolife.org or https://bethematch.org

If you'd like to become a bone marrow donor you can register at Madigan Army Medical Center. Walk-in bone marrow registration hours are 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Armed Services Blood Bank Center Pacific Northwest, located in Bldg. 9904 on East Johnson Street in the Madigan Annex's Ramp 2. For more information, call 253 968-1904.