Finding a match

Photo courtesy of Keith Kountz / Athletic Media Relations

Rose Hennig is in the middle of the biggest fight for her life. The community has come together and held a blood drive in hopes of finding a bone marrow match — the only option to save her life.

A 20-year-old Fresno State student has begun the fight for her life, for the second time.

She was an active member of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority and a member of the equestrian team before she was diagnosed with an extremely rare and sporadic form of Non-Hodgkins Burkitt’s Lymphoma in Spring 2008.

Rose Hennig underwent a six-month course of intensive chemotherapy treatments when her body reached an advanced stage of the disease in a short time frame.

In July, she received the uplifting news that she had clear bone marrow and the cancer was gone.
She slowly returned to her previous life as she gained strength and stamina again.

But her plans to return to college in the fall were put on hold when she began to feel the familiar back pain again in September.

Her bone marrow revealed the early return of the disease and doctors informed her that chemotherapy would no longer destroy the cancer.

Hennig is patiently waiting for a peripheral blood stem cell transplant, the only option left to save her life.

Her sister had a 25 percent chance of being a match, but was not, so Hennig has turned to the National Bone Marrow Registry to find a lifesaving donor with suitable bone marrow.

Hennig’s sorority sister, Amanda Macksoud, said that Rose remains positive and is hoping for the best.

The Jan and Bud Richter Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning with the help of the Fresno State’s equestrian team organized a three-day blood drive to help Hennig and others in the community.

Joseph Edgecomb / The Collegian

The bone marrow testing, which usually costs $52, was free because the Bone Marrow Society waived fees for students.

To be added to the Bone Marrow Registry, a simple swab test is all that is required to possibly save someone’s life.

The test may be simple, but finding a donor-recipient match is very difficult — even more difficult than finding a suitable donor for an organ transplant.

“Rose would love to see people get swab tested for the marrow drive because the Bone Marrow Registry is so limited,” Macksoud said. “There is not a definite chance that she will find a bone marrow donor and she is OK with that, but she hopes that we can get a match and help out a perfect stranger that may be in the same situation as her.”

Donation buses were on several locations on campus — the west side of the University Student Union building, near the Education Building, in Maple Mall and next to the Peters Business Building.

Posters were posted on the side of each bus with Rose’s picture and information about why the cause is so important.

Not far from the buses, student volunteers passed out flyers in an effort to promote the blood drive and its purpose of giving back to Rose and others in her situation within the Central Valley.

The turnout for each bus location was steady and constant. The Student Union’s bus location seemed to be the busiest, with a line of students waiting to donate.

Despite the twist in Hennig’s fate, her supporters remain optimistic.

Last year the equestrian team dedicated the spring semester to Rose and wore “Rose Ribbons” to show support of their friend and teammate.

The team also took part in numerous cancer walks to raise funds for a cure.

The team, with Coach Becky Malmo, together went over to help plan the blood drive with the faculty.

“I’m just so gratified with how the Fresno State community has responded; were all hopeful of her return,” Malmo said.

This week’s event was the second of four blood drives on campus this year — all coordinated by Renee Delpot of the Jan and Bud Richter Center.

“There is probably nothing an average person can do in less than one hour that will directly help save a life as much as donating blood,” said Chris Fiorentino, director of the Jan and Bud Richter Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning. “If you donate, you will help save someone’s life. It really is that simple.”

Hennig’s parents, Marianne and Brian, released a statement through e-mail explaining their daughter’s story and thanking those who have shown their support.

Her mother stated in the e-mail, “As a mom of children who have been blessed by blood donations, but who knew nothing about marrow donations, I want the community of Fresno State to discover [that] they can literally make a life/death difference to another human being.”

The e-mail concluded, “Showing up at a blood or marrow drive and saying you are willing to restore health and a future to a stranger is an act of love that blesses us all. And we thank you on behalf of all who stand in our shoes. Go Bulldogs!”

By Megan Helon and Michael Mygind / The Collegian

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