Airman's donation can save infants life

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Chasity Lollis
  • 147 Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs
Five thousand four hundred and fifty-nine miles. That is about how far one good deed can go.

In 2005, while getting a physical at Andrews Air Force Base Tech. Sgt. Ryan Erickson, a member of the 147th Reconnaissance Wing, was asked if he wanted to register to be a bone marrow donor. His answer was simple, "Why not? No reason not to."

Eight years passed before he heard anything else about it. Then, in May he got a call from the National Bone Marrow Donor Program informing him they found a potential match.

He was immediately granted permissive temporary duty from his unit and traveled  to Washington, D.C., for a physical and blood tests to confirm he was still in good health to donate. Once confirmed, they notified the family of an infant in the Czech Republic of the match. "The only information they would give us was 'infant, 0-12 months, weighed 8 kilograms,' which is like 18 pounds, and 'from the Czech Republic with a diagnosis of other.' They wouldn't specify," he said. No other details were shared between the two families. According to the rules made by the program, the address, name of the donor and recipient, and illness of the recipient are kept confidential for a full year.

The hospital treating the infant decided they did not want to do the invasive bone marrow transplant and decided on stem cells instead. One shot of Filgrastim in each arm for five days was administered to Erickson to make his body produce excess stem cells. The excess caused achy joints, headaches, sleeplessness and intense back pain with Erickson, he said. He was hooked up to a dialysis machine at the end of the week for four hours to filter out the excess stem cells. During the same week, the infant underwent chemotherapy to kill as many of his cells as possible with hopes that the new cells would restart his entire system.

Erickson is tied to this recipient for one year. "In case they need more bone marrow or stem cells, they don't want me going somewhere else," he said. "After that year, I go back into the registry list." Erickson's wife and three children are very supportive of his decision to donate, he said. When asked if he would do it again, he responded, "Hands down, I'd do it again. Who wouldn't? It's a no brainer....Just looking at my 1 year old, if I was in that boat, what would I want someone else to do?"

The national registry is available to anyone who would like to register. "When you're having a bad day, there's someone else having it 10 times worse and you can take five minutes to go get in the registry and a week to alleviate all of their pain on the other end," he said. "What takes you two months to go through paperwork, they've probably already gone through years of trying to find a donor."