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Football player donates stem cells to man in Denmark

  • man standing
  • man lying on chair with needles in both arms

Posted on May 04, 2017

Grand Valley football tight end Nick Keizer celebrated his birthday May 2 by donating his stem cells to a man in Denmark who needed a bone marrow transplant to survive.

In March 2016, Keizer and many of his football teammates swabbed the insides of their cheeks during a Michigan Blood registry drive. At the time, Keizer said he never thought he would be a match.

"The presentation pulled at my heart and I thought, 'Why not sign up to be a donor?' Yet I also thought the odds of me actually being a match can't be that high," he said.

It's about a 1-in-500 chance, according to Caitlin Gallagher, community engagement representative for Michigan Blood, Be The Match.

Gallagher said Michigan Blood was notified in December that Keizer was a potential match. He underwent more blood work and in February was deemed a perfect match for a man in Denmark.

Keizer's donation was non-surgical and took about four hours, with needles in both of his arms. "I'm not a big needle guy, but I figured I could handle a little discomfort, because that doesn't compare to what the patient is going through," he said.

His stems cells were then given to a volunteer courier who flew to Denmark on May 2. Gallagher said the transplants usually need to occur within 48 hours.

Keizer, a native of Portage, graduated April 28 with a bachelor's degree in accounting and finance. He has one more season of eligibility left and will play football for Grand Valley in the fall while pursuing a master's degree in business administration.