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A potential bone marrow match for someone in need
CLU’s Jordan Barta is a member of the first senior class to play four years under head coach Ben McEnroe. Barta plays defensive end for the Kingsmen and leads the conference in sacks this season.
Jordan Barta had his cheek swabbed, filled out some paperwork and went about his life.
Barta wasn’t sure if anything would ever come of adding his name to the National Marrow Donor Program’s registry until he received a call last month.
Nearly 15 months after having his saliva sample taken, Barta was told he was a potential match. The former Cal Lutheran linebacker is waiting to hear if he will be asked to donate his bone marrow or peripheral blood cells to a woman in need of a transplant.
“I was really excited and really happy because it would be great to be able to help someone,” said Barta, who graduated from CLU in May. “That person could be someone’s mom or grandma and if my mom or grandma needed bone marrow, I would hope someone would step forward to help save her life. It’s such an easy process compared to what they are going through.”
Although Barta’s registration was an individual act, college football programs across the country have become involved in joining Be The Match Registry — the name of the registry operated by the National Marrow Donor Program.
The effort has been spearheaded by Villanova University head football coach Andy Talley, who heard an oncologist talking on the radio 21 years ago about how bone marrow could save the lives of cancer patients.
Tally learned how many patients can’t find a match within their own family, and knew exactly where he could find a large group of healthy bodies.
Ever since, Talley has made it mandatory for his players to join the registry.
More than 10,000 patients in the United States are diagnosed with life-threatening diseases such as leukemia or lymphoma every year, and their best chance for a cure is a transplant from an unrelated donor.
CLU’s Jordan Barta is a member of the first senior class to play four years under head coach Ben McEnroe. Barta plays defensive end for the Kingsmen and leads the conference in sacks this season. Barta warms up with teammates to begin practice.
About 70 percent of patients in need of a transplant do not have a matching donor in their family.
Nadya Dutchin, the National Account Executive of Be the Match Registry, has worked with many football programs, including Villanova, to establish their registry drives.
“It’s a really nice way for us to get them involved. Athletes are typically some of the best students and maintain great grades and are great representatives of their school,” Dutchin said. “But they are also learning leadership skills because this is student run and they are handing out consent forms and walking around campus encouraging people to join.”
Talley’s mission has spread to other programs through the “Get in the Game. Save a Life” initiative.
More than 30 college and university football programs joined the cause last year by hosting a donor registry drive. San Jose State was the first West Coast-based program to participate.
“College students are the ideal demographic because they are all young and healthy,” Dutchin said. “If we were going to choose a donor and you have a 40-, 50- and 19-year-old, we would always pick the 19-year-old because patients respond better to their cells in the long run. It sounds weird, but we found that through clinical trials.”
Villanova two-sport star Matt Szczur gained national attention last year for his selfless act.
Szczur, who is now in the Chicago Cubs farm system, was named the Most Outstanding Player in the Football Championship Subdivision title game in 2009.
But Szczur was willing to potentially skip the game to take part in the donation process if necessary.
Szczur ended up missing part of the spring baseball season at Villanova to donate peripheral blood cells to a 19-month-old girl with leukemia.
Barta is hoping he can make a similar impact if his match is confirmed. He never imagined a simple visit to a blood drive on CLU’s campus could lead to him joining the registry and potentially saving a life.
“I am in the dark right now about what is next,” Barta said. “But I will be ready if they need me. I want to stay in the system as long as possible.”
By Rhiannon Potkey, Ventura County Star