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University athlete ends career to donate life-saving bone marrow

Hailu Mulatu, co-ordinator of donor management at OneMatch in 2012, demonstrates the swab kit used to collect a sample of stem cells for a possible donor match.

Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail

What would you sacrifice to save the life of a stranger?

For University of New Hampshire student Cameron Lyle, giving up his athletic career to donate bone marrow to a cancer patient was a no-brainer.

"You can't measure life against anything," he told Chicago's WLS-TV News. "When you have an opportunity to save someone, you gotta go for it."

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As CBS Boston reports, the 21-year-old shot putter, who is now in his senior year of university, had earlier joined his teammates in having their mouths swabbed to be added to the national bone marrow registry. A few months ago, the registry contacted him to inform him he was a rare perfect match for a 28-year-old man with leukemia, who would otherwise have less than six months to live.

The donation procedure, however, would mean several weeks of recovery. CBS Boston points out this means Lyle would have to forfeit his chance to compete at the American East championships next month, an event that would have been the culmination of eight years of training.

Nonetheless, Lyle began the procedure in hospital on Wednesday. "I would love to give him a shot and a second chance," he told CBS Boston.

As the Globe's André Picard previously reported, registering as a potential donor with Canada's OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network is easy (all it takes is the swipe of a cotton swab inside one's cheek), but giving bone marrow is an involved process.

One of the challenges the registry faces is recruiting potential donors from various ethnic groups (most are caucasian) to meet the demands of a multicultural country. But even having "millions in a registry is not helpful if they are not wholly dedicated to going through with a donation when there is a potential recipient," Picard wrote.

Still, when someone's life is at stake, the inconvenience of being a donor can seem trivial by comparison.

Others have taken several weeks away from work and time off their favourite activities to donate a kidney to a stranger.

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