Courtesy of Yale Athletics

As classes wind down for reading week and students begin to enjoy the May weather, the only things missing from Cross Campus are tables of students ready to register as potentially life-saving bone marrow donors.

After getting involved during high school with Be The Match, an organization operated by the National Marrow Donor Program, or NMDP, men’s lacrosse captain Brian Tevlin ’22 not only helped run registration stations his junior year of high school, but was able to donate his own marrow as a sophomore at Yale. That spring, the donation made him to miss two games, and as the coronavirus forces him and his teammates to miss the 2021 season, he reflected on his experience of donating bone marrow with the News. 

“We are put on this earth to give back and lend a helping hand to those in need,” Tevlin said. “I’m grateful that I was given the opportunity to help someone and that my bone marrow matched with someone who needed help.”

Tevlin was inspired to join the Be the Match registry by one of his best friends in high school, whose mother’s life was saved through a donation after she had been previously told that she had no matches in the database. He joined his friends in recruiting their fellow students to register, swabbing the insides of their cheeks to enter the database.

Tevlin explained to the News that he was notified about his match, a man in his 50s from North America, as a sophomore at Yale. He was then asked to have surgery, rather than give through a plasma donation, which Tevlin said was at first “intimidating,” but he reminded himself that “it could very well be [his] dad in this position.”

“After donating blood and having blood drawn for testing on several different occasions leading up to the surgery, everything checked out and I was scheduled to go in,” Tevlin said. “It was a little bit of a process, but keeping in mind why I was doing it made everything that I was asked to do seem trivial compared to what the recipient was going through.”

Following the surgery, Tevlin described being “incredibly sore and stiff” for about two to three weeks, which limited his range of motion and made it difficult to return to play on the men’s lacrosse team, which was in the middle of its season. 

Yale men’s lacrosse captain Brian Tevlin ’22 donated his marrow after being notified about a match in 2019. (Photo: Courtesy of Yale Athletics)

Tevlin said that he attempted to come back as early as he could to play, which caused his injury to linger longer, but that training staff, such as Yale’s Head Athletic Trainer Jay Cordone, “did an incredible job” in helping him return appropriately and safely. 

“I am also grateful that [men’s lacrosse head] coach [Andy] Shay and the team were so understanding,” Tevlin said. “Not once was I discouraged from doing this despite the fact that I would miss meaningful minutes of our season.”

As a then sophomore on the team, the midfielder only missed two games in the week following his surgery. The Bulldogs won against both Princeton and Air Force

At the time, Shay, who had witnessed Tevlin support the Bulldogs in taking home a national championship as a first year the previous spring, noted that it was “impressive that he came back as fast as he did.”

“My initial reaction was it’s a no brainer, I think you have to do it,” Shay said in a 2019 interview with NBC Connecticut.   

Be the Match manages the largest and most diverse marrow registry in the world and works to save lives through pairing marrow donors and patients to facilitate transplants. Within a year of the organization’s first transplant in 1987, over 10,000 people had registered to donate. 

While Tevlin continues to support Be The Match and encourage others to sign up, he is not directly involved with the Mandi Schwartz Marrow Donor Registration Drive at Yale.

“It doesn’t take much to join the registry and it could give someone a second chance at life,” Tevlin said. “I am always here to speak to others about my experience and why it is so important to join.”

As part of the nationwide “Get in the Game. Save a Life.” campaign, Yale has partnered with Be The Match to hold a drive in memory of former Yale women’s ice hockey player Mandi Schwartz ’10, who passed away in 2011 from leukemia at the age of 23 after no matching adult donor was found. The drive is virtual this year to eliminate the need for donors to come to Cross Campus to register. 

Yale partners with Be The Match to hold a drive in memory of former Yale women’s ice hockey player Mandi Schwartz ’10. (Photo: Yale News)

Yale’s Assistant Director of Strategic Communications and Board Member of The Mandi Schwartz Foundation Sam Rubin ’95 said that the department has hosted marrow donor registration drives since 2009.

“To date we have added more than 7,500 people to the Be The Match Registry and saved at least 74 lives through marrow donations in her memory,” Rubin wrote in an email to the News. “Keeping her legacy alive in this way is a great testament to the impact she has had on so many people.”

Because nearly 70 percent of patients do not have a fully matched donor in their family, a greater pool of donors in the Be The Match registry is essential to saving lives. As of May 2020, 106,000 potential donors nationwide have swabbed their cheeks and entered the registry.

The “Get in the Game. Save a Life.” program has led to 621 life-saving transplants as of last May.

AMELIA LOWER
Amelia Lower covers women's soccer, men's lacrosse and men's ice hockey. She is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards College and is from Rye, New York.