Jump to Footer

SUNY Plattsburgh Senior Sean Conklin's Stem Cells May Save Lymphoma Patient's Life

Sean Conklin never expected to be a match.

Sure, he let technicians take a swab test inside his cheek, and he let them enter the results into the bone marrow registry, but he never thought it would amount to anything more.

Then the email arrived. “URGENT PLEASE READ IMMEDIATELY.”

A year after his swab test, blood tests confirmed that Conklin’s donation could save the life of a woman suffering from non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of cancer.

Injections Stimulate Stem Cell Production

“They wanted me to donate peripheral blood stem cell, which is different from a straight bone marrow donation,” he said a day after the procedure. He was tired but otherwise unscathed. “In a bone marrow donation, they put you under general anesthesia and extract marrow from your hip bone.”

The blood stem cell collection takes longer, is less invasive and better for the recipient.

Conklin began by getting a series of injections over five days to stimulate production of the needed cells.

On the fifth day — Jan. 28 — he was at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., hooked up to an aphaeresis machine which took blood from one arm, filtered out the stem cells and replaced the blood through an IV into his other arm.

“It took about six hours from start to finish,” Conklin said. “That was probably the hardest part of all — sitting there for six hours. They give you a TV to watch, you can bring books or your laptop. But your one arm has to remain immobile.”

Baseball Team Honors Player, Continues Donor Search

The bone marrow registry project is a favorite of the Cardinal baseball team. The team holds a registry event at the Angell College Center Ballroom every April in honor of former player Brian Mehan, who died from cancer six years ago. It was through this event last year that Conklin was swabbed.

This year’s Brian Mehan Be the Match Day will take place 11 a.m.-2 p.m. April 28 in the Angell College Center and again before and during the Cardinal’s 7 p.m. Brian Mehan Be the Match Game beginning April 30 at Lefty Wilson Field.

Worth the Six-hour Sacrifice

“They kept telling me at the donor center that I’m saving someone’s life by doing this. I wasn’t thinking about that when I got the swab done. I just kind of did it. I was walking by, and it seemed like a good thing to do at the time,” Conklin said.

The 22-year-old senior psychology major from Long Island said he’d consider donating again if the opportunity arises.

“I remember sitting there, hooked up to the machine, thinking, ‘Why did I do this? Six hours …’ Now, afterwards, when I’m happy and comfortable, it occurs to me that it really wasn’t that big of a sacrifice to make. Six hours to potentially save someone’s life seems worth it to me.”

Back to top