Skip to main content

GV Now

Athletic training major donates bone marrow

  • woman in hospital

Posted on August 10, 2017

More than a year after getting her cheek swabbed at a Michigan Blood booth, Alexis French learned she was a perfect match to donate her bone marrow and potentially save a 7-year-old girl's life.

Trouble was French, an athletic training major, was in China at the start of a six-week study abroad trip when she got the news.

"I had been in China for six days when I was notified that I was an exact match," said French, a native of Mattawan. "I asked if they wanted me to come home, but they said I could wait until the end of my program."

In mid-June, two days after returning home from China, French had more blood tests done and then in July underwent a bone marrow surgery at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids.

"Two doctors worked on me at once, taking the bone marrow from my hips. It was an outpatient procedure and I was back to work in four days," said French, who worked in the Holton-Hooker Learning and Living Center over the summer.

French participated in Grand Valley's Relay for Life in April 2016 when she stopped at the Michigan Blood Be The Match booth for a cheek swab and to register as a potential donor. She was familiar with Michigan Blood as she helped organize a fundraiser while in high school for a teacher's son who was diagnosed with cancer.

Michigan Blood is a familiar site on college campuses. Caitlin Gallagher, community engagement representative for Michigan Blood, said while people ages 18-44 can donate bone marrow, donors under age 25 produce more and higher quality cells than older donors.

Gallagher said Be The Match will be one of the newest student organizations on campus in the fall semester. "The students will definitely be looking for more opportunities to increase awareness on campus," she said.

In addition to serving as a resident advisor, French will be a student athletic trainer for Grand Valley's football team in the fall. She will likely meet graduate student Nick Keizer, Laker tight end, who donated bone marrow in May after undergoing a cheek swab with his football teammates in 2016.

"It's so cool that Nick was also a match," French said. "I want more people to be aware of the options and to take advantage of the opportunities to become a donor."