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SVSU student donates bone marrow to leukemia patient

Haley Ludviksen, a nursing senior, received the opportunity to save a life before her graduation in December. Vanguard Photo | Karlee Gourd

Nursing senior Haley Ludviksen recently gave life-saving bone marrow to a 54-year-old man suffering from leukemia.

Ludviksen joined a bone marrow registration after helping charter a Lions Club chapter on campus. As a member of National Honor Society, Rotary Club and 4-H in high school, the Cadillac native said knew she wanted to stay involved once she came to SVSU as a nursing major in 2013. Soon after she arrived on campus, Ludviksen met a fellow classmate with the same passion.

“A friend that I met in class was talking about starting an SVSU chapter of the Lions Club, and I was all for bringing the community and SVSU together,” she said.

Soon after Ludviksen helped bring a chapter of the Lions Club to SVSU, they hosted an event aimed to match bone marrow donors to recipients. The event was done in collaboration with Gift of Life, a nonprofit that focuses on organ and tissue donations. Potential donors at the event took a simple cheek swap to see if they were compatible matches with anyone seeking bone marrow donation.

Participating in the event herself, Ludviksen was surprised to learn a match had been found. She said it is rare to find a match. After additional screenings of a potential match’s blood and a physical, around 1 in 300 potential donors will find a perfect match, according to bethematch.org.

“I was ecstatic,” Ludviksen said. “I was so excited to have the opportunity to save someone’s life before I even graduate as a nurse.”

The next step for Ludviksen was a procedure done at the Gift of Life collection center in Virginia.

“I donated peripheral stem cells,” she said. “So, basically, it felt just like donating blood. Gift of Life flew me to Virginia and paid for everything.”

She said is hopeful that she will soon get to meet the recipient of her donation. She said donors and recipients must wait a year before they are given the option of learning who their match was. For Ludviksen, knowing who she was able to help would be rewarding.

“I might be able to meet the patient I donated to in a year, so that alone will make the experience worth it,” she said.

Students who are interested in becoming bone marrow donors don’t have to have extensive knowledge on the process, Ludviksen said.

“Anyone who would like to sign up to be a bone marrow donor can order a swab kit, and the organization will mail it for free to them.”

She said potential donors need to swab their cheeks with the cotton swabs provided in the kit and send them back to Gift of Life.

Ludviksen, who will graduate in December with her nursing degree, plans to move to a big city where she can continue helping
people, just as she was able to by donating bone marrow.

“It was an incredible experience,” she said. “I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.”

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