554 ELSW director gives gift of life

  • Published
  • By Elizabeth Payne
  • 554th Electronic Systems Wing
In August 2009, the 554th Electronic Systems Wing Director, Col. Derrick Richardson, embodied the following quote from the famous inspirational book "The Prophet" by Kahlil Gibran: "You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give."

This quote rings true for Colonel Richardson because this summer the C.W. Bill Young Department of Defense Marrow Donor Program matched him as a donor, his first match since registering in 1995. Due to confidentiality restrictions, the colonel only knows his match is a man in his twenties with leukemia.

Beyond the large time commitment, the emotional and physical demands on the donor require significant consideration before agreeing to complete the donor process. Colonel Richardson spent time with the medical experts at Fairfax Pathology Associates in Annandale, Va., where the procedure would be scheduled. After learning of the risks, side effects and possible complications, the colonel agreed to become a donor because he believed with his contribution he had the power, privilege and hope to make another person's life better.

The process to complete the extensive testing and preparation was put on the fast track to be completed in less than six months. Colonel Richardson showed additional dedication when he agreed to be placed in the Peripheral Blood Stem Cell clinical research study, which tests the effectiveness of using stem cells from a donor's circulating blood rather than from bone marrow. The colonel agreed to take on the possible side effects of bone and muscle aches, headaches, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and difficulty sleeping, because of the promise and success of this newer procedure.

In addition to the program staff's assistance, each donor is assigned a buddy, who is trained to be able to recognize any complications and provide ongoing support. Colonel Richardson's buddy was his wife, Denise.

Despite the many risks involved, Colonel Richardson was able to successfully complete the extensive bone marrow donor procedure and encountered only minor side effects, such as insomnia and lower back pain. He was impressed by the professionalism and support offered by the program and encourages those interested to learn more about how they can support this important cause.

"I was acutely aware that my contribution was part of a life and death procedure for the patient," Colonel Richardson said. "I am grateful I was a match and honored to be able to give of myself in such a personal way. I have come away from the experience with a renewed appreciation of the blessings I have in life."

For more information regarding the National Marrow Donor program, contact program representative Eddy Medina at eddymedina@dodmarrow.com.