Thursday, April 22, 2010

Record-breaking day

Eveerybody involved in Thursday's bone marrow drive at Yale was hoping to top last year's mark of 704 participants, the most for the one-day campus event.

Mission accomplished.

The final totals showed 911 new entrants into the bone marrow registry, an impressive feat since anybody who took part last year did not need to fill out the paperwork and have their cheeks swabbed because they are already in the registry.

The only negative from the day was the fact that Yale women's hockey forward Mandi Schwartz was not there to witness an event which she was the inspiration for.

A year ago Schwartz was in a hospital room in her native Saskatechewan receiving reports from the inaugural event which drew a record 704 participants. Although no match was found for Schwartz at the event, she was found to be free of leukemia. Schwartz returned to Yale and was planning to resume her playing career with the Bulldogs. She was also front and center - or as much as a quiet, reserved person like her can be - in the planning stages for this year's event. Schwartz was planning to be in attendance but then she received the horrible news on Monday that the leukemia returned.


"It's a little scary going back home to get treatment again," Schwartz said on Wednesday night. "I have to miss the event but I have faith in all the students and
the community that they will come out, they will support the cause."

Schwartz's absence was clearly felt on Thursday.

"We wish she could be here with us," said Shane Bannon, a fullback on the Yale football team who was one of a host of football and women's hockey players volunteers at the drive. "She has been on the committee for the last six weeks, sending e-mails out and being really involved but she is here with us in spirit."

Schwartz had breakfast with her Yale hockey teammates Thursday morning before leaving for the airport. It goes without saying, it was an emotional morning.

"Definitely this morning is very tough for us," said Yale junior defenseman Samantha MacLean said. "We all got up at 7:45 and had breakfast with her and kind of said farewell.

"It is always difficult, especially since it was the second time around. We are all such a close team and I have grown close to Mandi the past couple of months. It is definitely hard to say goodbye to her and know what she is going through, that
she is going through a serious struggle. Right now we are kind of focusing our energies on the bone marrow drive and then we will deal with things as they come, I guess."

It will be about 4-6 weeks before it is determined whether any of the 911 new additions to the bone marrow registry are a match for leukemia patients. I asked MacLean what her reaction would be if a match was found for Schwartz.

"I would be overjoyed," MacLean said. "That would be so amazing. We didn't expect her to need a match. By the time we found out that she did. it would mean so much for us to know that Mandi has a chance to be healthy again."

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