By Katelyn Collins
Two years ago when Union student Laura Pacheco ’16 swabbed her cheek for the Gift of Life Foundation, she said she “never really thought twice about it.” To her, it was no big deal because she was just doing what everyone else was doing around her — the whole women’s lacrosse team was doing it, so she joined in, making what she says was a “subconscious decision.”
Pacheco described it as, “the way my parents raised me was always with the phrase ‘give more, take less.’ We, as people, have to help other people who need it.”
Many may have seen the various articles shared recently on social networks praising Pacheco’s bravery and selflessness. Various Union students, regardless of their relationship to Pacheco, have shared the article, proud that they attend a school where students make these kinds of differences.
When she received the phone call over summer break, she said she was “elated,” but it also did not seem quite real to her at first.
Everything finally hit her when her first set of blood work came back and she received a phone call revealing that she was a perfect match for a two-year-old boy. She immediately answered yes without thinking about it, and said that if she had even considered denying the donation, she would have immediately felt guilty.
Her thought process was that she had signed up to be in the donor bank, and had therefore made a commitment to not only herself, but to the Gift of Life and to her match.
The Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation is a public bone marrow and stem cell registry. They assist transplants for people of all ages who suffer from life-threatening illnesses.
The Gift of Life has become a huge part of Laura’s life since her donation.
When asked why the charity is so important to her, she stated, “Cancer has and is affecting many people in my life, as well as the Union community. This organization is something that is so little, but can mean so much. I might have given this little boy a life, but this little boy gave me more than I could ever dream of.”
Union student Kaitlyn Suarez ’15 is currently battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma for her fourth time.
As a result, Kaitlyn will undergo a bone marrow transplant this month, and luckily her brother is a match.
Kaitlyn is a geology major, like Pacheco, and she has also had a direct impact on Laura’s life.
Laura stated that seeing Kaitlyn have this opportunity reminds her not only of what she did, but also how important and impactful it is.
Following her bone marrow donation, Laura has been doing everything she can do to get the word out about bone marrow donations and to help the Gift of Life grow their registry.
She said, “A lot of people are scared and turned off about bone marrow donations because of the pain. The experience I received 150 percent outweighs the pain I went through. So many people get phone calls and do not respond. I ask people to please respond. Most of the time, it is just to update your health history.”
Laura’s main goal is now centered on spreading awareness and the truth about the bone-marrow donation process.
When asked why other people should consider giving bone marrow or being organ donors in general, she replied, “I mean, everyone has different beliefs. But I always think along the lines of, ‘If I am healthy and able to donate, why not?’ Your bone marrow reproduces, so why not give? People donate all the time. Same concept. Same kind of idea with organs. I am an organ donor and have been since I could be.”
Laura said the idea of being a bone marrow donor just comes naturally to her, so she cannot necessarily understand why someone would not want to donate.