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by Healthe at Cerner
Published on September 5, 2017

What if you could give someone a second chance at life?

According to DKMS, a nonprofit that focuses on eliminating blood cancer, every three in the U.S. someone is diagnosed with blood cancer, for which a bone marrow transplant may be the only chance for survival. However, finding a genetic match for someone in need can be difficult with six out of 10 patients unable to find a compatible donor.

Cerner partners with DKMS to offer on-site bone marrow donation registry drives to help find those genetic matches. The more individuals on the registry, the better the chances for those in need.

After coming across an article about how to become a bone marrow donor, Tyler Jacobs, system engineer, started looking further into the topic and, without much hesitation, decided to register.

“I felt the call to help, so I did it,” said Tyler. “How often can you so easily give something back knowing that you are helping a real family? You could literally be saving a life.”

And Tyler did receive that call to help. Twice.

Within a few months of registering, Tyler received a call that he had been matched to a man in his 50s with a form of leukemia. This particular case ended up not working out as they went with another match candidate. But a little over a year later, Tyler found out he was matched again, this time, to an infant with a rare autoimmune disorder.

“My reaction both times was surprise,” recalled Tyler. “When you get the call, things kind of slow down. You can feel the adrenaline surge, and your mind starts racing.” When Tyler received the call about the infant, he knew he had to help.

After going through what seemed like endless amounts of blood work, having a physical, EKG and chest x-rays done, the results determined Tyler was healthy enough to donate.

He then scheduled a date for donation, undergoing an outpatient surgical procedure to extract the bone marrow.

“I think the moment it all became real was when I was lying in bed waiting to go back for the surgery,” said Tyler. “My humility always hates admitting that you really do feel like a hero lying there. Every nurse you meet is thanking you and telling you what a great thing you’re doing. The doctors are all super supportive and encouraging. Even the lady who would eventually carry the bone marrow to the helicopter and take it to the receiving hospital to be given to my recipient came down and thanked me. It was humbling and elevating at the same time.”

After the surgery, Tyler went home to recover for about a week.

The bone marrow registry followed up with Tyler after the surgery to make sure all was okay and to answer any questions or address concerns. They communicated with Tyler, although intentionally vaguely, to let him know of the crucial milestones of the child achieved at one week, one month, six months – even a year after donation. After that year had passed, the recipients’ family reached out to Tyler directly to share photos with him. Tyler hopes to eventually meet them face to face.

Tyler encourages others to take the step to join the registry. “The greatest benefit of this entire process is knowing that there is a family that is whole and a little boy who can fully enjoy life because of me taking a little time and a few small risks. That is worth it. You can be the cure.”