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Students

Donors save lives, student is proof

October 11, 2010
By Rommel McClaney

Undeclared first year Cody Biggerstaff is adjusting to the busy on campus life. But being diagnosed with leukemia at age 15 almost made his path to CSU impossible.

Cody Biggerstaff, 18, is an undeclared freshman who still isn't quite sure what he wants to major in. He is also a part of Key Academic in Braiden Hall.

Getting adjusted to things

Undeclared first-year Cody Biggerstaff is still getting used to life on campus. He said his first couple of weeks on campus were a little strange but now he is used to "the way of things here" and really enjoys his classes.

"I like the environment here. It’s weird, I’ve lived here in Fort Collins for a long time and I really didn’t know that this (the CSU community) was all here."

Biggerstaff described it like living in a little town in the middle of a big city.

Finding a bone marrow match

At age 15, Cody was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the blood. Soon after, he became all too familiar with treatments like blood transfusions, bone marrow transplants, and chemotherapy.

"I literally survived off of blood transfusions for months," said Cody. "So when you donate blood, that’s where it goes. As far as bone marrow transplants go, I’ve had two."
 
Cody's first donor was his youngest sister McKenna, 15, who was a 10/10 absolute perfect match for him.

"As stupid as it sounds, she was too good of a match (for me) and her cells didn’t fight off the cancer cells so I relapsed."
 
After relapsing 14 months after his sister's donation, Cody was still in need of a bone marrow donor. Help came from a complete stranger on the other side of the country who had signed up to donate nearly 15 years ago.

Donation process

When you sign up to be a bone marrow donor and are chosen, the process is simple, but the impact is monumental.

First, you get your mouth swabbed to test your DNA. If you do get called to give marrow, you are given a couple of shots, which virtually painless, to build up your marrow. A couple weeks after that, they call you back in and take it like a normal blood draw, similar to donating blood. The only difference is the blood they take runs through a machine to take out the cells they want and they give you the rest, like your red blood cells, back into your other arm at the same time.

Through this process, Cody would come to meet Stephen Kingsley of South Carolina. Better known as the man who saved his life.

Cody meets Stephen for the first time. Stephen is wearing a shirt advertising the "Be The Match" campaign.

A life-saving experience

"Stephen Kingsley saved my life. He’s my blood brother now. It’s not every day you get to thank someone for saving your life and I got that opportunity. He gave me the gift of life. There’s not much else to say."

Having moved to Virginia since signing up for "Be The Match," a marrow donation organization, Stephen Kingsley was contacted to donate to Biggerstaff.

Just a few weeks after Ram Welcome, a healthy Biggerstaff after a successful bone marrow transplant, met Kingsley upstairs at Lodo's Bar and Grill.

That night those two, along with Cody's mother and father, Meloney and Mike, his sisters, Caylee and McKenna, Stephen's wife Brooke and his two daughters, Clare and Piper shared a special bond that words may never truly define.

"Be The Match"

Biggerstaff informed me many of the bone marrow registry centers say they are always in need of donors and are really short on minority donors especially.

"A lot of the time they can’t find matches for patients because there are so few names on the registry."

He loves to tell his story to anyone because he wants to make a difference.

"If this could save even one life, or even extend one, it would be totally worth it."

For more information on becoming a donor, visit "Be The Match" and look for donation buses on campus.