By Bryana Cielo
In April 2017, junior Julia Caiazzo became president of the Love Your Melon club at Sacred Heart University.
Love Your Melon is a non-profit company that makes and sells hats and then donates half of their profits to finding a cure for pediatric cancer.
One of her first jobs as president was to run the E-board of an event they were holding for the very first time at Sacred Heart: a swab drive for “Be The Match.”
“Joining Love Your Melon was one of the best decisions I have ever made, and it certainly has changed my life,” said Caiazzo.
Be The Match is a non-profit that connects people who are an exact match for a bone marrow transplant, giving a healthy person the opportunity to save someone else’s life.
On the day of the Love Your Melon and Be The Match event, Caiazzo decided to get swabbed so that she could find out whether or not she was a match for anyone who needed bone marrow.
At the time, she didn’t know much about the process, just that there was a small chance she would have the opportunity to save someone’s life.
After months of thinking she would never hear back, she got a call in Oct. 2017 that she was a potential match for a bone marrow recipient. For the rest of the month, she was filling out health forms and attending doctor’s appointments.
At any point during that process, it could have been determined that she was not an exact match.
However, on Giving Tuesday, which was on Nov. 28, Caiazzo received a call that a patient’s doctor had chosen her to be the best match to save someone’s life.
When she first told her family and friends that she was considering a bone marrow transplant, they were worried.
They had heard that it was a painful process and were not sure that it was safe.
However, after contacting Be The Match and talking to them more in depth about the process, Caiazzo felt completely comfortable with her decision.
“About eight-percent of potential matches will be asked to donate after the additional testing stage. However, I was in that eight-percent. I saved a life, and I am beyond grateful to have had this opportunity,” said Caiazzo.
She donated her bone marrow through Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Donation, which is a five-day process. For the first four days, she received injections. On the fifth, she was hooked up to a machine that first took her blood and stem cells, and then put blood back into her arm.
While most of the information about the patient is kept confidential, it was revealed that Caiazzo was able to help a 57-year old woman who lives in America.
“When I first opened the letter confirming my donation process, it revealed the age and gender of my recipient. Tears came to my eyes and I thought instantly of my mother,” said Caiazzo. “I knew that if my family was in this situation I would want someone to do this for her.”
In one year, a bone marrow donor is given the opportunity to meet the patient whose life they saved.
Until then, the patient and donor are able to send anonymous notes to one another.
“People who join the registry have a very real possibility of becoming a match and saving a life. Some people wait all their lives on the registry,” said Caiazzo. “Matches are rare, but they are so special. You can all be that extra chance someone gets to push towards a cure, and my story is proof that you all can be that chance. What are you waiting for?”