Small Acts | A 3rd MLG Marine donates bone morrow to stranger

3rd Marine Logistics Group
Story by Cpl. Mark Fike

Date: 10.14.2019
Posted: 10.28.2019 02:20
News ID: 349409
Small Acts | A 3rd MLG Marine donates bone morrow to stranger

A small act of kindness can go a long way. For U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. John Thompson a small act of kindness is doing the right thing when called upon.

Thompson, the data systems chief for 3rd Supply Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, recently underwent the process of donating stem cells to a stranger. The recipient was diagnosed with Sickle Cell Leukemia, a blood cancer that usually begins in the bone marrow and results in a high number of abnormal blood cells.

Thompson chuckled while saying he didn’t even remember being added to the donation registry in boot camp. Years after boot camp, a representative from the C.W. Bill Young Department of Defense Marrow Donor Program reached out and notified him that he was a possible match. In Thompson's case, he was a potential donor for an allogeneic bone marrow transplant.

“I called for more information and agreed to do a follow on test at the U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa on Camp Foster to find out if I was an exact match,” Thompson said. “About two weeks later my family received a call that I was an exact match for a sixty-four year old male with Sickle Cell Leukemia that lived in France and I agreed.”

In an allogeneic bone marrow transplant, the donor has a genetic tissue type similar to the person needing the transplant.

“Once I was told I was an exact match for someone with a life threating disease, and that I was able to donate my stem cells, it was hard for me to say no,” Thompson reflected. “I’m a father of four children and if I was put in that situation I’d hope someone would be able to help me so that I could have more time with my family.”

During the procedure Thompson’s stem cells were collected from peripheral circulating blood cells.

Thompson explained that during the process he had to go into the clinic and get injections to increase his blood cell count. After repeating this process for four days, he was finally ready for apheresis, a process where blood is taken from your arm and ran through a machine to collect stem cells.

Thompson’s wife, Haleigh Thompson, said she was skeptical of the procedure at first, but after talking to a representative and learning that her husband could potentially save someone’s life she decided that the procedure was well worth it.

Thompson tried to reach out to the man that he donated to, to see how he was doing. Unfortunately, the French government does not allow direct communication between donors and recipients. After trying to get in contact, Thompson wrote an anonymous letter to support the recipient.

Thompson is no stranger to donating, he has also went out of his way to become 3rd Supply Bn.’s blood drive representative.

“Staff Sgt. Thompson contacted me earlier this year about donating blood,” said Allie Witt, the blood donor recruiter for U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa. “I had just started my position here at the hospital and done a radio interview looking for blood donation coordinators -- immediately after [the radio piece played], I received his call.”

“Being out in Okinawa and hearing the blood drive commercials from [the Armed Forces Network] I started wanting to donate my blood. I’m O Negative so I knew I could give to anyone in need,” said Thompson.

Witt said, that at first, Thompson was just interested in donating his blood because he knew that he had O Negative blood type. After talking to him, she decided he would make a good coordinator for his unit.

A blood drive coordinator is the person responsible for collecting names and scheduling areas for blood drive events.

With a smile on her face Witt shared, “After [Thompson] did his first event, he completely knocked it out of the park!” She went on to say Thompson is a very selfless person and constantly puts others before himself.

”After his first event I called to tell him he did a great job and told him I would email him a Letter of Appreciation, but he kept saying that he didn’t need it and he was just glad to help,” Witt cheerfully stated.

“He’s definitely an altruistic person!” Witt exclaimed. “He’s someone that wants to help people… he’s honestly a great person.”

So far this year Thompson has coordinated three blood drives and scheduled a forth in November.

“I’m glad that I can help people… if I have the ability to help than I feel obligated to do what I can,” Thompson said in a solemn manner.