Former Yale University hockey player Mandi Schwartz passed away just over five years ago of acute myeloid leukemia, but Schwartz's memory lives on at Yale in the form of an annual bone marrow drive. Various members of Yale's athletics teams come together each year to hold the drive as a way to encourage people to join the Be The Match bone marrow registry. The hope is that out of hundreds who sign up, at least one person could possibly help save a life.
Yale football player Jack Rushin was one of the athletes who joined the registry his freshman year of college. Rushin said he was more than happy to join at the time, as his own father required a bone marrow transplant when Rushin was just eight years old.
Over a year and a half after Rushin joined the registry, he got a call. The defensive linesman was a potential match for a sick woman, and multiple blood tests and doctors appointments in the following weeks confirmed he was the best possible donor for the patient.
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Rushin was able to schedule his donation for a Monday in October -- an off-day for the football team -- when he made the trip up to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston for the seven-hour procedure.
"You have a needle in each arm and the blood comes out of one arm," Rushin said. "They have a machine -- I think it's basically a centrifuge -- and they take what they need and then they give you back what they don't need. So I was just hooked up to a machine for about seven hours."
Although doctors warned Rushin that he could miss up to two games while he recovered from the procedure, Rushin had no issues and was able to return to practice for the Bulldogs the next day. Still, Rushin said his coaches were understanding in case he did have to miss time. Thanks to the annual drive, 30 members of the Yale community have served as donors in past years, including the football team's special teams coordinator Paul Rice and both of the team's directors of operations, Zach Wigmore and Chris Gennaro. The annual bone marrow drives at Yale have helped add over 5,000 people to the Be The Match registry since 2010.
Rushin said he was honored by the opportunity to serve as a donor.
"I was just very excited, honored really because I'm very lucky to have my father in my life so I would do anything to give back for the gift that I've been given," Rushin said. "I would do it over again a million times just because I'm so lucky."
Rushin remains highly involved with the Mandi Schwartz Be A Match bone marrow drive, as he now serves on a committee of athletes who organize and promote the drive. The economics major said the group set a goal to have 1,000 people sign up through this year's drive on April 20. He also said he hopes to continue to educate the public on Schwartz's story and legacy.
"Just the way that she lived her life and the influence she had on the people around her, it's an honor to try to continue that," Rushin said. "We're obviously very proud of everything that we're able to do to continue her legacy."
To learn more about Be The Match and Mandi Schwartz, check out Yale's information page here.