UT student sacrifices spring break to save a life

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on March 18, 2014 at 8:58 PM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 18 at 9:16 PM

AUSTIN — Ford Yates, 19, packed his bags last week for the spring break of a lifetime.

Actually, it was a spring break that would make another man's lifetime.

"I was in a hospital in California doing a bone marrow transplant for a 63-year-old man with leukemia,” Ford explained.

Speaking via Skype Tuesday from his dorm at the University of Texas at Austin, Yates said he feels fine.

"I don't think it was a big deal,” he said. “I think my friends are thinking that it was more of a big deal than I did."

Bone marrow donation isn’t always taken painfully from the hip, as it used to be. Often — as in Ford’s case — bone marrow can be removed with a process called apheresis, where its components are extracted much like a blood donation.

Donors undergo several weeks of blood tests and take special medications to boost bone marrow production.

In this case, Yates flew to a center in California that specializes in apheresis for bone marrow transplants. His marrow recipient did not necessarily live nearby.

Yates became a bone marrow match after doing a simple mouth swab last summer. His mother, a breast cancer survivor, was his inspiration.

By sacrificing his spring vacation, he said he might have given someone else's parent a chance to watch their kids grow up.

"I saw it as the clearest, the biggest blessing of an opportunity to show someone love for no reason,” Yates said. “I don't think people need reasons to love others.”

Yates could have been skiing with friends over spring break. "There's always next year," he said.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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