Johnston teen donates bone marrow to help stranger - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Johnston teen donates bone marrow to help stranger

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Jessica Larson never intended to become a bone marrow donor.  She said while attending the University of Iowa, she passed a sign for "Be The Match" that caught her attention.

"It said it was for cancer patients and that`s what really struck me because I liked the idea of helping someone with cancer because I have actually lost multiple family members to cancer," says 19-year-old Larson.

In the winter of 2014, Larson lost her eight-year-old cousin and grandfather to cancer, being a donor was a way to honor them.

Larson said signing up was easy.  After getting her cheek swabbed, the results were stored in a national database.  Little did she know just months later she would get a call to tell her that she was a match for someone.

"To get that call right away, I was thrown off and I was terrified but once they said, 'Hey there's a 30-year-old male out here, he is not doing well'. It just hits you that I could potentially save his life . . . I can save a life and most people don't have the opportunity to do that."

A couple of weeks ago, Larson went to Iowa City for the procedure.

While most bone marrow donations are done through the arm, similar to donating plasma, Larson's recipient had a better chance of survival if her donation was done through a small surgery.

Larson said she wore her cousin's courage beads throughout the entire process which not only helped honor her but gave Larson the courage to donate.

"That's the worst part about losing family members to cancer, is you feel so helpless.  With this organization, it has given me the chance to say, 'hey now I can do something about it and help someone else out.'"

In a year, Larson is hoping to have an opportunity to meet her donor.  She also has plans to become an advocate for signing up for the registry when she returns for her sophomore years at the University of Iowa.

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