The gift of hope

May 31, 2005

Carl Gansen, of Belle Plaine, Minn., will spend two days, a week before his finals at Kettering, helping someone he may never meet to beat Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML).

As Eminent Commander and philanthropy chair of Sigma Nu Fraternity for B-Section at Kettering University, and philanthropy chair for the Inter-Fraternity Council, Carl Gansen is familiar with the concept of giving. However, on June 6 and 7 he will take giving to a very personal level.

Gansen, a senior majoring in Computer Engineering, will miss two days of class during the week before finals at Kettering to donate stem cells to a 59-year old man he doesn't know who is fighting Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML).

Out of 5.5 million people who have volunteered to donate marrow or blood cells to any patient, anywhere in the world, Gansen was identified as a genetic match after joining the National Marrow Donor Program registry in November of 2004 at a registry sign-up on campus. He participated in the drive, spearheaded to find a match for fellow student Courtney Holder's mother Cathy who passed away before receiving a bone marrow transplant, by donating a blood sample.

"I was identified as a match in March (2005) for a cancer patient," said Gansen, "and was asked if I was willing to do further testing to confirm the match." Additional testing included providing more blood samples, being checked for infectious diseases and having a physical.

"The original donation days were April 27 and 28," Gansen said, "but they were delayed because the recipient contracted an infection that needed to be cleared up with antibiotics prior to the transfer."

There are two methods of donating healthy marrow or blood stem cells. The more well known method of using a needle to withdraw marrow from a bone and a procedure called apheresis, involving removing blood from the donor, extracting the blood stem cells and returning the blood to the donor. Gansen will donate his peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC) using the apheresis method.

To prepare for the donation, Gansen will receive injections of a blood cell growth factor called filgrastim each day for five days to increase the number of stem cells in his blood stream. The donation will take place at the Michigan Blood Center in Grand Rapids, Mich. Following apheresis, the donated stem cells will be introduced into the recipient intravenously, much like a blood transfusion.

Once the donated cells enter the patient's circulatory system, it will take about one month to see the first evidence of "graft" meaning the patient's marrow has begun to work and is producing new blood cells.

"Everyone keeps saying that what I'm doing is brave and heroic," said Gansen, "but I did not sign up to be a hero. I did it out of respect for Courtney and her recent loss. Plus, if I wasn't going to donate then what would be the point of joining the registry?" he said.

After donating, Gansen will return to campus to study for his finals June 15 to 18, and then it's back to work at his co-op job with Rosemount Inc. in Minnesota. He may not think spending two days sitting still with needles in both arms is brave, but to an anonymous 59-year old and his family, Gansen is definitely a hero.

Each year, more than 30,000 people are diagnosed with life-threatening blood diseases such as leukemia and aplastic anemia, as well as other immune system and genetic disorders. To survive, many of these patients need a healthy marrow or blood stem cell transplant, which is only possible when donor and patient have matching tissue types. Seventy percent of patients are unable to find a matched donor within their immediate family and must search the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) registry.

NMDP volunteers must be between 18 and 60 years old and in good health. Typically, the younger the donor, the more likely they are to be called upon. For more information about the registry or becoming a marrow or blood stem cell donor, visit or call 1-800-MARROW-2.

Written byDawn Hibbard

with information provided by Kim Barrett
Marrow/Stem Cell Program
Michigan Community Blood Centers