Record number of students participate in bone marrow program

Amanda Muldoon

Head coach Andy Talley and the football team partnered with the National Bone Marrow Donor “Be the Match” program when they hosted a bone marrow drive in Connelly Center on April 15. This year’s slogan was, once again, “Get in the Game and Save a Life.”

When Talley heard about the program 17 years ago on a radio show, he saw the opportunity to get his team involved to help prevent people from dying simply because there are not enough donors on the registry. 

By getting tested and being entered into the registry, people can potentially be matched with a patient’s tissue type, in which case they would have the opportunity to give a marrow or peripheral blood stem cell donation to save a life. 

Talley says having his own 85 players get tested, register and encourage other people to do so can make a huge difference for the national registry. Last Thursday, 701 people were tested and entered into the registry at Villanova alone, which Talley says is a record number and an improvement over last year’s 438. 

“It is incredibly important for Villanova students to get involved with this cause,” Talley said. “This is a last chance for someone, and you could literally save their life. Students are living a good life here, and all they need to do is simply get on the registry.”

Talley wasn’t the only one enthusiastic about the drive.

“Even with finals coming up and papers to write, it was worth taking about 15 minutes of my time to help and potentially save a life,” freshman Leah Buena said. “Even though people feel like they can’t make a difference, all you need to do is fill out some papers and stick a Q-tip in your mouth.”

Thirty other college football programs have committed to joining the screening process as a result of Talley’s efforts. 

All the teams hold a drive in the spring, and their goal this year is to get 5,000 people tested since testing last year resulted in 8,022 new people in the registry. Talley says that at 2,500 people now, with 18 teams still to test, this year should be a success. 

One particular Villanova student, Talley says, has reached hero status for his involvement in this cause. Talley’s own player, junior Matt Szczur, was found to be a match with an 18-month-old infant with leukemia through the National Marrow Donor Program.

Talley says Szczur was prepared to miss playoff games, before the Wildcats went on to win the National Championship, for his scheduled donation date. The procedure was rescheduled, but he is now due in the next couple of weeks. Also a baseball player, Szczur will have to sacrifice a few games. 

Out of the 20 million people registered as potential donors throughout the world, only about 250 matches are found every year. This works out to a slim 1-in-80,000 chance that a potential donor will be a match to a patient.

“It’s an opportunity to save a life,” said George Siracuse, a freshman on the football team. “Every opportunity to save a life is one that you should seize.”