Cameron Lyle, a star athlete on the University of New Hampshire’s track and field team, has made a decision that means the end of his sports career and the beginning of new hope, and a new lease on life, for someone who’s a total stranger.
Lyle is a senior at UNH and a Division I athlete who competes in the shot put, hammer throw and other events. Two years ago, in the school cafeteria, he had his mouth swabbed for a bone marrow registry. He thought nothing of it until, a few months ago, he got a call informing him that he was a possible match for a 28-year-old man suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Without a transplant, the man had only six months to live.
Further tests revealed that Lyle was a perfect match, a one in five million chance. On learning this, Lyle figured he’d go through with the donation, only to realize that the surgery (in which a needle is used to withdraw liquid bone marrow from a pelvic bone) would mean the end of his athletic career. After the procedure, Lyle is not allowed lift more than 20 pounds over his head, making it impossible for him to compete in the rest of his athletic events for his senior year.
Simply stating that the decision to donate was a “no-brainer for a decent human” and that he hoped someone would do the same for him if that were called for, Lyle tells ABC News that
“It’s just a sport. Just because it’s Division I college level doesn’t make it any more important. Life is a lot more important than that, so it was pretty easy.”
Lyle’s mother, Chris Sciacca, says her son told her about his decision via a text that said that “‘So I guess I have a chance to save someone’s life.’” Noting that he would “do anything for anybody,” Sciacca says she and Lyle took the long view:
“We talked about in five or 10 years, is he going to look back and say, “Damn, I wish I went to that track conference,” or is he going to say, “Damn, I saved someone’s life.”
Lyle received a similar response from his coach of four years, Jim Boulanger. After the athlete (who’s over six feet tall) had nervously said he wouldn’t be able to compete at the America East Conference championship, Boulanger replied,
“You go to the conference and take 12 throws or you could give a man three or four more years of life. I don’t think there’s a big question here. This is not a moral dilemma. There’s only one answer.”
Last Saturday, April 20, Lyle participated in his last competition, his teammates rallying around him. He is to have the surgery performed at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital, the very same place where those injured in the Boston Marathon bombing have been cared for.
Lyle and the man he will donate his bone marrow to must be anonymous to each other for a year, after which they can sign consent forms to learn each others’ identities. Lyle hopes to meet the man whose life he’s saving and that he might want to meet him.
After so many tragic recent events, it goes without saying that Lyle’s act is not simply inspiring and a sign of a true champion. It’s a priceless gift that shows the very best of what we humans can do.
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