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Cheers for College Cheerleader Who Saved Toddler’s Life

A senior in college in 2019, Rachel Buck was preparing to graduate from University of New Haven and start the next phase of her life when she received a call from Be The Match. She was told she was a match for an 18-month-old boy who was battling leukemia. He was the same age as her niece at the time and she knew in her heart she needed to step up and give this child a second chance at life. 
Without hesitation, Rachel agreed to be his donor and donated marrow in September 2019

“It didn’t do too much to my schedule or my life, but to know that it took five days out of my life to potentially save and change someone else’s, it’s amazing to me that programs like this exist,” Buck said.

Rachel joined the Be The Match Registry when she was a cheerleader in college, and her campus hosted a “Get In The Game” recruitment event. Get In The Game is a partnership between the Andy Talley Bone Marrow Foundation and Be The Match that engages college athletes to rally students and staff on campuses around lifesaving bone marrow donation. Through Get In The Game, more than 110,000 people have registered for the national registry and more than 800 donors have gone on to give patients a potential cure through transplant.  
Fast forward to August 2021 and Rachel, now 23 years old and living in Boston, was given the chance to meet the young boy whose life she saved. 

Aggressive Cancer Required Aggressive Treatment 

Jacob Parry of Indiana was diagnosed with leukemia at just 14 months old, and doctors at Riley Hospital for Children said he would require a blood stem cell transplant to cure him of his aggressive blood cancer, AML, which was not only in his bone marrow and blood but had also infiltrated his skin. 

Jacob’s primary transplant physician, Dr. Jodi Skiles, said Jacob’s skin involvement was resistant to standard chemotherapy. His transplant treatment was intensified with radiation to ensure eradication of leukemia in his skin. This necessary measure of aggressive disease control resulted in increased toxicity during the transplant.

“Jacob experienced multiple post-transplant-related complications that required him to be in the ICU for many weeks,” explained Dr. Skiles. “He remained in the hospital for 7 months and required inpatient rehab to learn how to hold his head up, sit, crawl and eventually walk again.  But you would never know it today ... Jacob is a happy, healthy, busy, RUNNING toddler who is in remission and has a fully recovered immune system thanks to his amazing donor, incredibly strong parents, and the support of many family, friends and team members who supported him along the way.  We are so excited to see what life has in store for Jacob - we are convinced that he is going to do great things.

Now 3 years old, Jacob’s daunting journey is even more remarkable because he found a match in a stranger. His family was excited to meet the woman who saved Jacob’s life.

“We’ve waited for this day for quite a while, we’re just so excited that we’re finally able to meet her. There’s no words to thank her enough for what she did for us,” said Jacob’s mom Kaylie Parry.

In an emotional display, Rachel ran onto the baseball field at the College of Holy Cross in Worcester, MA, home of the Worcester Bravehearts baseball team, and embraced Jacob and his mom.

Rachel and Jacob’s family hope that their story can inspire others to join the Be The Match Registry and possibly save a life.

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