A few weeks ago Seth Skjervheim, a life-long native of Langdon, joined an exclusive club at the ripe old age of 21.
Posted on 10/12/17
By Lisa Nowatzki
Through his selfless actions, he helped save someone’s life as a bone marrow donor with the ‘Be the Match’ bone marrow donation program.
Skjervheim’s parents are Don and Kathy Skjervheim. He has one brother Paul, and one sister, Kayla. He is a senior at the University of North Dakota, majoring in history and communications.
He plays the sousaphone in the university band. He is active in the Newman Center on campus and is also a member of Beta Theta Pi, which he does volunteer work through.
When he graduates, he hopes to find a job in journalism. On the surface, Skjervheim seems to be an average young college student, but dig deeper and discover that he has done an extraordinary thing.
One day during Skjervheim’s freshman year, his bother, Paul, found out about the bone marrow donor registry program. After that, the brothers attended the initial ‘Be the Match’ drive on the UND campus.
The donation process begins with a cheek swab. Then a laboratory exams the swab to determine if the donor is a match to one of the thousands needing the life-saving treatment.
Back in June, Skjervheim first got the call from the donor center telling him that he was a possible match. After that notification, he went to the lab to have some blood drawn. He said that the purpose of the second test was to determine if he was the best match for the patient needing bone marrow.
Shortly after the blood work, Skjervheim said, “In the beginning of July, I got the call saying I was the best match for this guy.” After that notification, Skjervheim had to have a complete pre-op physical to determine if he was healthy enough to donate. After the all-clear from the doctors, a donation date was set. The original surgery date was August 30, but there was a delay that caused the donation date to be pushed back several weeks. He flew to the University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison, Wisc. for the operation.
According to Skjervheim, the procedure wasn’t too bad. ‘Be The Match’ arranged for Skjervheim to fly down the day before the donation for some final pre-op appointments. He said, “The day of the donation I had to get there at about 6:30 in the morning. I went into surgery a couple hours later.”
Skjervheim said that the actual procedure took about an hour and a half. Afterward, he spent an hour in the recovery room before being moved to a hospital room. He stayed in the hospital for a few hours to make sure there were no complications from the procedure, and then he was allowed to go back home on the same day.
“Recovery wasn’t too bad. The first day afterwards, I was short on energy, but I regained all of that within a couple days of the procedure,” Skjervheim replied when asked about his recovery. For about two or three weeks after surgery, he was stiff and sore in the lower back, where they took the marrow from, but other than that the pain wasn’t bad.
When asked if he would donate again if he were another match, Skjervheim gave a resounding, “Yes.” Since he has donated once, the donor registry program will allow him to donate once more before taking his name off the registry list.
At this time, Skjervheim knows little about the donor recipient except that he is 63 and has leukemia. According to hematology.com, leukemia is a type of blood cancer found in the blood and bone marrow and is caused by rapid production of abnormal white blood cells. Over the coming year, however, they both will get the chance to talk and possibly meet in person.
The National Marrow Donor Program or ‘Be the Match’, a global transplant network dedicated to eradicating blood cancers, provides the technology, services, expertise and logistical support to make bone marrow transplants possible. ‘Be the Match’ has 13 million registered possible donors in the United States and 27 million registered possible donors worldwide. According to their website, in 2015, 6,400 patients received an unrelated marrow transplant. For many, like the patient Seth helped, unrelated marrow is the patient’s best hope for a cure.
If anyone has questions or wants to join the bone marrow ‘Be the Match’ registry, more information can be found at www.bethematch.org or call (800) 627-7692.