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Eastern and DeCasanova Support Marrow Registry

Published on December 04, 2015

Eastern and DeCasanova Support Marrow Registry

Eastern Connecticut State University continued its support for people with life-threatening blood diseases on Dec. 1 by hosting its fifth marrow registry in the past three years. Eastern first got involved with this effort in 2012, when student and soccer player Jon DeCasanova was diagnosed with aplastic anemia and lymphatic cancer.

“There’s no guarantee in the business of cancer,” said DeCasanova, 24, of Glastonbury, who has since made a miraculous recovery. Describing the goals of Eastern’s marrow registry, he said, “What we’re doing here is at least giving someone a chance to fight.”

At the registry, more than 100 members of the Eastern community had their mouths swabbed and information entered into the “Be The Match” database, the largest marrow registry in the world. Over the course of Eastern’s five registries, 1,122 people have registered — 15 of which have been identified as “matches,” or suitable donors for blood/marrow transplants.

Jon DeCasanova

“It’s pretty amazing, to be honest,” said Greg DeVito, head coach of Eastern’s men’s soccer team. “It’s really hard to find a match. There are millions of people in the registry, and for Eastern to have 15 in only three years, it’s amazing.”

DeCasanova was given less than a one percent chance of survival by some doctors. However, after receiving years of treatment and a cord stem cell transplant, in 2014 he returned to Eastern to continue his soccer eligibility and finish his degree in sport and leisure management.

The men’s soccer team takes the lead in promoting this event on campus, posting flyers, making announcements in class and informing those passing by the Sports Center (where the registry is held). Their goal every drive is for at least 100 new people to register.

“It’s hard to describe the support I’ve gotten from Eastern,” said DeCasanova, reflecting on the more than 600 people who lined up at the initial drive. “Compared to where I was, I’m doing amazingly. I’m still in remission. With cancer you don’t just bounce right back into things, but I’m getting there.”

People who are identified as matches have two options for donating. One method is via a peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donation, a nonsurgical procedure similar to giving blood. The other method is via a bone marrow donation, a surgical procedure in which bone marrow is extracted directly from the pelvic bone.

Students registering at the Be The Match marrow drive.

“When we get these transplants as cancer patients or blood disorder patients, we have a new birthday,” said DeCasanova. “My birthday is now December 11, 2012. That’s how serious it means to us as patients. It gives us a second chance at everything. I’ve had so many great memories just in the last year or two that I wouldn’t have been able to have if things didn’t work out how they did.”

Because of DeCasanova’s remarkable recovery and the support he received from the Eastern community, the University was honored with the 2014 National Marrow Donor Program/Be the Match Awareness Award.

Minding his health, DeCasanova hopes to graduate in 2016.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Categories: Athletics