MINSTER – Minster High School senior Sierra Lentz was willing to endure some pain and discomfort because she knew her actions could help save someone’s life.
“It’s nothing compared to what these patients are going through,” Lentz said. “The stuff that they have to go through, I would never want to go through.”
Lentz, the daughter of Michelle and Calvin Lentz, donated stem cells April 14 that will be given to a woman with myelodysplastic syndrome, a disorder in which bone marrow does not produce enough healthy blood cells. Left untreated, the disease would develop into leukemia.
The hope is Lentz’ stem cells will replace the unhealthy ones in the woman’s body and save her life.
“It’s so good to do something good for the world in a time that everyone can only see the bad stuff in the world,” Lentz said. “I love it.”
Lentz signed up to be a bone marrow and stem cell donor one evening in October while working on anatomy homework. Her teacher, Marianne Bruns, had encouraged all the 18-year-old students in the class to join the donor registry.
“It’s such an easy thing to do, and you truly and really can save a life,” Bruns said.
Lentz liked the idea of potentially saving someone’s life but didn’t expect that it actually would happen. Approximately one in 430 Be The Match Registry members in the United States go on to donate bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells to a patient.
But on March 27, just five months after she joined the registry, Lentz was matched with a potential recipient.
“I never would have imagined to get the call,” the Minster senior said. “I was shocked to be only on it for like five months. To be honest, I kind of forgot I was on it.”
Bruns estimated she has approximately 20 students a year who donate blood or join the bone marrow registry, but Lentz is the first student she’s had in her seven years of teaching who was selected to be a stem cell donor.
“I was amazed that it happened so fast,” Bruns said. “I’ve been in the bone marrow registry since college, and I’ve never got called.”
A week after getting a call about being matched, Lentz underwent a physical with full lab work to ensure she was a suitable donor. Then a week after that, she began receiving injections of filgrastim, a drug that boosts production of stem cells.
The injections, which she received twice each morning for five days, caused some discomfort. But Lentz said she knew the person who would receive her donation was suffering much more than she was.
“I would rather go through the minor headaches and the aches and pains than to be on the other side,” she said. “If I was on the other side of that, I would want someone to do it.”
Lentz made her stem cell donation on April 14 at Ohio State’s James Cancer Hospital and was told the recipient would undergo a stem cell transplant the following week. In approximately six months, doctors will evaluate the recipient to see how she’s responding to the transplant and if another donation – from Lentz or someone else – is required.
In a year, if the donor and recipient both consent, they could learn each other’s identities.
“I’m so proud of Sierra,” Bruns said. “She’s such a hard worker. She’s such a go-getter.”
Bruns, who also teaches biology and injury physiology, offers extra credit for any of her students who donate blood or sign up for the bone marrow registry. Students who aren’t eligible to donate can earn extra credit if a family member donates.
Now with Lentz, Bruns will have an example to show her students how their efforts could save someone’s life.
“I’ll be using her as an example every year from now on, how she’s a hero,” said Bruns, who also stresses to her students the importance of organ donation and wearing a seat belt.
Lentz, who plans to study nursing at Wright State University and become a nurse at at pediatric hospital in a neonatal intensive care unit, said she’s passionate about volunteering and helping others. She feels fortunate that she’s healthy and lives a financially secure life and was glad she could help someone who wasn’t as fortunate.
“It’s always been on my heart to help people,” she said. “It was always something that I wanted to do.”
To learn more about donating bone marrow and stem cells, visit https://bethematch.org/ or call 800-627-7692.
Reach the writer at [email protected] or 937-538-4824.