“Sport is not bigger than life. Sport is a part of life.” That is the message Jim Boulanger, director of the University of New Hampshire track and field program, gave to Cameron Lyle the day he found out he was a bone marrow match, as reported in the Boston Globe.
Lyle, a 22 year old track and field star at UNH, signed up for the Be the Match bone marrow registry on a whim two years ago. They told him his chances of being a match were something along the lines of “one in five million.” He had no idea he would one day save someone’s life.
In May, Lyle was contacted by the registry. He was a match for a 28 year old man who was suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a form of blood cancer. Lyle’s bone marrow could save the man’s life.
Days before the Division 1 America East Conference championships and the Penn Relays, Lyle had a decision to make: donate blood marrow, or compete for a gold medal one last time. He had already medaled 11 times at the conference level.
A follow-up test showed that Lyle was indeed a match, and he had a decision to make. “Now or never,” they told him. Initially scared to tell his coach that he would not be finishing the track season, Boulanger was nothing but supportive.
The bone marrow extraction procedure involves puncturing two or three spots at the rear of the hipbone. Lyle’s surgery took over an hour, and the maximum amount of bone marrow was extracted: just under two quarts. Lyle’s surgeon, Dr. Steven McAfee, told the Boston Globe that the needle was injected into Lyle’s back over 200 times. He was left in serious pain and unable to lift more than 20 pounds for several weeks, but the tradeoff was unparalleled.
Lyle gave up his dreams of another championship to save another man’s life. His selfless actions are incredibly admirable.