Alumnus blood donation gives new life to USC board member – USC News & Events

A USC board member and the assistant director of sports medicine for the University of Tennessee football team met for the first time this weekend as the Vols came to town to take on the Gamecocks.

But the two have a bond that began more than a year ago — and it’s much deeper than a board member having dinner with an Arnold School of Public Health alumnus.

Administrator J. Egerton Burroughs was diagnosed about two years ago with acute leukemia. His doctors at Duke University Hospital told him he had two options – chemotherapy, which could extend his life by up to 18 months, or, if he was qualified and a matched donor was found, a bone marrow or blood stem cell transplant which carried some risk but could provide a cure.

“For me, it was a no-brainer. I opted for the transplant,” Burroughs said.

“It’s critical that people understand that blood is rare…And the only way people can get these transplants is with donors.”

J. Egerton Burroughs

Fortunately, a donor was found on the registry that matched Burroughs. And although the pool of potential donors spans the entire country, this donation came from someone with a connection to South Carolina. Alex Medina, who earned his master’s degree in advanced athletic training from USC in 2015, would provide the life-saving stem cell donation.

Medina was in graduate school at USC when he and his Arnold School classmates volunteered to be stamped and added to the Be The Match registry. The National Marrow Donor Program connects patients with compatible donors for transplants.

In August 2021, he opened an email saying he was in correspondence with a leukemia patient, and information was provided for further testing and screening.

“During the donor screening process, they choose the donor that best matches the patient who needs it. So I happened to fit very well with this patient and they scheduled the date for the donation,” Medina explains.

After taking a drug that helps stimulate bone marrow and increase his white blood cell count, Medina flew from Knoxville to Cincinnati where he spent a few hours undergoing peripheral blood stem cell donation. The process is similar to plasma donation, with blood being taken using a needle in one arm, cycled through a machine that separates stem cells, and the remaining blood is then returned to the donor in the other arm. When healthcare professionals have collected the right amount of stem cells, a courier takes the bag to the patient awaiting a transplant.

“I came back to Knoxville and kept working. August is the busiest time for me because of the pre-season football camp,” he says.

Meanwhile, back at Duke, Burroughs had completed the graft selection and preparation process.

“Once they find out you have a match, they prepare you really well with a very, very high rate of chemo to make sure that every cell in your body that could be infected with this cancer is dead,” says- he. “Then they give you the transplant, which is done with an IV bag. It took maybe 30 minutes.

Alex Medina donates blood stem cells
Arnold School of Public Health alumnus Alex Medina donates blood stem cells in August 2021. The donation was used to help save the life of USC Board Member J. Egerton Burroughs.

After the transplant, a patient continues to receive blood transfusions until the body begins to make bone marrow. Just over a year after the transplant, Burroughs is cancer-free and says he feels “good.” And, because the transplant was successful, Burroughs and Medina were allowed to contact each other after a year.

“He sent me a nice email introducing himself and saying ‘thank you’ and we started talking over email and learned he was from South Carolina and was on the board. university,” Medina said. “So it was pretty cool to see a place that I know really well where I spent two really good years. I just felt like it was a really small world.

Burroughs said he was eager to connect with his donor: “I wanted to thank him for being alive. You can’t do it without the giver. And once Alex and I started communicating, we discovered that we had so much in common. He had graduated from one of our best programs. I was a college administrator when he graduated. Where I sit at the start, I watch the graduates pass. So maybe I saw him pass.

While at USC, Medina was a graduate assistant working with the Gamecocks football team, and later held athletic coaching positions with the Arizona Cardinals in the NFL, James Madison University and the NFL. University of Tennessee, where he is an athletic trainer and assistant director of sports medicine for football.

Burroughs says he wants to work with Medina and others to encourage people to be donors – of blood, bone marrow, blood stem cells and platelets.

“When you have a bone marrow transplant or chemotherapy treatments, the bone marrow is affected or eradicated and the patient is dependent on blood transfusions. It’s critical that people understand that blood is rare,” Burroughs says. “We urge people to donate blood through the Red Cross. And the only way people can get these transplants is with donors.

For Medina, adding more people to the donor registry means there will be a better chance that patients battling leukemia or other illnesses can have a chance of a full recovery. He says his mother, who was a nurse, had two bouts of cancer, one in the 1990s and one in the last three years. She died in September knowing her son had helped save a life.

“My mother had a strong influence on me personally. So it was kind of gratifying to tell my mom that I had been matched with someone and they had a good result. She was really happy about it. »


To learn more about register membership, visit Be the Match website. For more information on donating blood, visit Red Cross website.

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