SFA athlete scores home-run as bone marrow donor

SFA athlete scores home-run as bone marrow donor

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - From the SFA Athletic department: 

Through his collegiate baseball career at Stephen F. Austin, Nick Ramos played in 213 games, finished four wins shy of 100 for his career and became the program's leader in a number of statistical categories. 

Through all that, the Plano, Texas, native's biggest accomplishment while at SFA has not occurred anywhere near the 'Jacks' home venue of Jaycees Field or at any one of the opposing ballparks he has played in. Instead, it took place in a hospital room in Houston, Texas, where Ramos may just have saved the life of a complete stranger halfway around the globe. 

On an annual basis, through the efforts of SFA's branch of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), agents from the Be The Match foundation come to SFA's campus to conduct swabbing drives with the end goal of finding donors who could potentially provide life-saving bone marrow for the thousands of individuals around the planet who are suffering from blood and bone cancers.

Entering the national database and registering as a potential marrow donor is an easy enough process. Individuals need only stop off at a Be The Match drive, swab the inside of their mouths with four cotton swabs, and get those samples sent off to the national office where they are placed on a list of people who could one day save lives. 

Although the chances of a finding an exact match through the Be The Match database lay within the range of 66-percent and 99-percent, Ramos never believe he would be on the receiving end of a call.

"I honestly didn't think I would get contacted," Ramos explained. "When I signed up for the registry, the donation coordinator for the drive on campus told me that most people never get a call."

Fortunately, Ramos did.

Since its formation in 1986, the National Marrow Donor Program - the parent organization of Be The Match - has helped facilitate more than 80,000 marrow and cord blood transplants to patients. In that time, its reach has expanded from the United States to a number of countries around the world. Because of its international reach, Ramos was identified an exact match for a woman in Italy - some 5,800 miles away from Nacogdoches, Texas. 

"When I got the call, my initial reaction was surprise, but there was excitement and nervousness mixed in, too," Ramos said. "Knowing that I could save a life, meant so much. It gave me chills knowing that I could have such an impact on someone who is going through life not knowing if she would see her next birthday."

So, Ramos made the decision to go through with the bone marrow donation process. With the process itself set to take place in Houston, Ramos had to put his body through a painful preparation process to ensure that the necessary stem cells could be produced that would in turn generate the marrow needed.

"I was injected with a drug called filgrastim," detailed Ramos. Filgrastim is a bone marrow stimulant that can help the body make white blood cells for gathering. "Some of the side effects that I experienced during the filgrastim regimen included body pain, joint pain and headaches, but through the entire process I just kept thinking the pain that I'm going through is nothing compared to what she's going through.

"Could I suck it up for a few days to help change her life? Absolutely."

On the day of the donation, Ramos headed to Houston where he was hooked up to a machine that harvested the bone marrow from his body. Through the day-long procedure, Ramos' thoughts rotated solely around what his donation could mean for a complete stranger half a world away.

"I believe that I was the person put on this earth to make a difference in her life," Ramos stated. "She has changed my life forever and I an truly grateful for that. Never would I have thought that I would have the opportunity to save a life, and I hope to meet her one day."

Should the transplant prove successful, Ramos will have to wait at least a year - or until the fall of 2018 at the earliest - to come face-to-face with the person whose life he helped save. 

Despite the pain, and the chance that the donation may ultimately be unsuccessful, the decision to help was one of the easiest Ramos ever made. To all those individuals undecided about whether or not to go through the process, Ramos has just one question.

"What are you waiting for?

"The person you are helping is someone's mom, dad, brother, sister, son or daughter. Nothing bad comes out of this process and it's such a good feeling knowing that you have saved a life and given that person a second chance. The pain that you will go through is nothing compared to what the recipient is going through."

Upon completion of the procedure, Ramos had just one thought going through his head.

"The most fulfilling part of this whole process was holding the bag that contained the bone marrow at the end and just thinking to myself, 'I did it and this is what is going to save her live.' It really has been a touching experience and if I had to do it all over again I would."

To find out more about the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) and Be The Match, visit the organization's website at the link below.