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Answering the call Student donates stem cells to help cancer patient


Justice freshman Pablo pundole stopped at a Health services information table last summer. It Pablo Pundoledidn’t take long before Pundole registered as a stem cell/marrow donor with GenCure to help patients with leukemia and similar cancers.

The GenCure Marrow Donor Program has partnered with Be The Match to host a donor drive on the UTRGV Brownsville campus this month.

Steve Machner, a physician assistant for UTRGV Health Services, said November will mark the third year that the Brownsville campus hosts the event. Last year, legacy school UT Brownsville had the highest number of student donors in Texas.

The Be The Match donor drive registers members of the campus community for bone marrow and stem cell transplants. These donations generally help patients suffering from leukemia and lymphoma.

The Hispanic community tends to struggle when it comes to finding a match due to the low number of registered donors.

“Donors typically match better from similar races,” Machner explained. “We are fertile ground for them to recruit Hispanic donors, which is really where they have one of the biggest deficits in the registry.”

GenCure cannot directly compensate an individual for a donation, but the organization does help to accommodate donors in various ways. The organization reimburses donors for their travel costs, including fuel, food and hotel expenses.

The clinic in San Antonio informed Pundole of common side effects from the procedure and performed physical and clinical tests to ensure his safety.

“It’s voluntary. You can say no if you want to,” he said. “The accumulation of stem cells caused me some lower back pain. But they told me to expect these side effects, so I wasn’t worried.”

During his five-day stay in the clinic, local news media interviewed Pundole about his experience donating stem cells.

“People called me a hero. I’m not a hero,” Pundole said. “I’m just a person who got called on. We all have our own calling and mine was to help this person.”

He does not know the identity of the stem cell recipient. “Some transplant centers may provide up to three anonymous updates on the status of the recipient within the first year after transplant,” according to bethematch.org.

Asked if he would donate again, Pundole responded, “Of course. Definitely.”The Be The Match drive will take place Nov. 9 through 11. Registration tables
will located in the Main courtyard, library and Student Union.

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