OU Student Donates Life Through Bone Marrow

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If knowledge is power, an Ohio University student is learning the lesson of a lifetime.

A simple act a few years ago, inspired by his mother, could now save a woman's life.

20-year-old Kevin Feinberg is a college student with civic-minded streak.  "I love watching sports. I'm a huge Columbus sports fan,” he said.  “I also love doing community service."

That spirit of giving was inspired by the woman who gave him life.

"Being helpful, always seeing what she could do to help others back home,” he said of his mother. “And so it was that, that really got me interested in helping others."  And it was that which led him to Hillel at Ohio University.

"I helped facilitate swabbing drives and we helped register over 1200 students in the registry at Gift of Life."  These "swabbing drives" have become a signature campaign for Hillel at OU. 

They claim the record as the largest campus bone marrow drive in the country.  "We think there's probably 8000 to 9000 Bobcats in the registry now from our efforts over these years,” said Rabbi Danielle Leshaw with Hillel at Ohio University.  “And we think, without firm numbers, that we've made at least 25 matches over the years."

Kevin was among the thousands on his campus to be swabbed.  In November, he received the devastating news that his mother had been diagnosed with stage three ovarian cancer.

One month later, came news of a different sort, with a phone call from Gift of Life.

"Hi is this Kevin?  I'm from the Gift of Life.  You're a potential match for a 30-year-old female with leukemia.  Would you be willing to donate?  And my heart kind of stopped. It was kind of an 'oh crap' moment. Like I actually got that call!"

In that moment, he says he thought of a friend and fellow Bobcat who'd been saved by a marrow donation, and of his mother.  "I was just like, yes, I'm doing this!"

After a series of tests, last month, he flew to Washington, DC, and donated his bone marrow to a woman he's never met.  "She's a complete stranger.  I have no idea who she is.  I may never know who she is.  But that's the beauty of it."

"It's incredibly selfless,” said Rabbi Leshaw.  “And it's really just this act of faith and love."

His selfless act is someone else's second chance and someone he thinks about every day.

"When I think about her, I just try to think of myself like I'd be in the room like, ‘come on, you can do this.  Just keep fighting.  Keep fighting.’"

He’s living the lesson of his mother, as she fights for her own second chance.  "Every person can make a difference.  It just takes one person."

Kevin's mother is currently in treatment for her cancer, but is not a candidate for a bone marrow transplant.  Kevin has not received an update yet on the recipient of his donation.

Gift of Life requires donors and recipients wait a year before they have the opportunity to make contact.

Every four minutes someone is diagnosed with a blood cancer.  That's 360 people a day donors can help.

If you want to donate bone marrow, you first need to join the bone marrow registry.

You'll be asked a series of questions and given a cheek swab to see if you match a patient in need.