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FRONTLINE: Doing Good With Joe Marcoux


Gift of Life

Spring is party time on many college campuses. But somehow Villanova University football coach Andy Talley always manages to come up with a hefty roster of would-be bone marrow donors in his bi-annual drive benefiting the National Marrow Donor Program (marrow.org).

Talley has been involved with the program for 13 years, but this is only the second time his efforts have produced a match. Out of 20 million-plus registered potential donors, only about 250 matches are found each year. (A transplant requires matching tissue types between patient and donor. Tissue types are inherited; but 70 percent of patients don’t have a matched donor in their family.)

In April of last year, Joe Marcoux, a Villanova freshman at the time, was weeded out of 400 registrants as a potential one-in-15 match. Every time he was tested, he advanced further and further into the process. Finally, in October, he found out that he was exactly what the patient was looking for.

The week before the transplant, Marcoux received injections that left him feeling nauseous and unable to sleep comfortably because his bones ached terribly. During the 7 ½-hour procedure, blood was taken from his left arm, stripped of blood-forming cells, and then pumped back into his right arm. Twelve hours later, his anonymous recipient underwent her half of the procedure.

Marcoux has received word that the recipient—a mother of three with acute leukemia—is doing OK. Should she continue to thrive, Marcoux will have the chance to meet her next year. He has mixed feelings about the anonymity.

“If I knew the person I was donating to and the process didn’t end positively, I would’ve felt very bad,” he says. “This is pretty much the last chance for a lot of cancer victims.”