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176th Wing master sergeant donates marrow to unknown recipient

ANCHORAGE, ALASKA -- "It is when you give of yourself," the poet Khalil Gibran wrote in 1923, "that you truly give." Few have lived out that sentiment as fully as Master Sgt. Duane Gonzales of the 176th Security Forces Squadron, who donated bone marrow to an unknown recipient in December.

Five years ago, Gonzales learned about donating bone marrow at a Family Day event at Warren AFB, Wyo. Healthy bone marrow produces red and white blood cells. Red blood cells transport oxygen throughout the body, and waste products away from the organs and tissues; white blood cells and platelets are important to the immune system.

Bone marrow donors give their marrow to patients with diseases like leukemia and Hodgkin's disease. These diseases often require patients to undergo radiation or chemotherapy, which destroys their own marrow. Without donors, the lack of healthy bone marrow will eventually lead to death.

The program Gonzales learned about is called the CW Bill Young/Department of Defense Marrow Donor Program. Gonzales signed up for the program on the spot, but wasn't contacted until last spring, when a program representative called to see if he was willing to donate. Due to work commitments he had to decline, but was reengaged about the opportunity later in October 2009.

He took the chance and spent a weekend in Washington D.C. for a pre-check physical. The battery of tests verified compatibility with his bone marrow receiver, and Gonzales was scheduled for the operation. He flew back to Washington and donated his marrow Dec. 3, 2009.

"It made me feel good," said MSgt Gonzales, in reference to donating. The operation, he said, involved minor pain, "but nowhere near what people thought or said."

The National Marrow Donor Program, which works with the C.W. Bill Young/DoD program, calls this donation process "a lifesaving treatment." Food, travel and expenses are paid for by the program, or the patient's medical insurance. The donor never pays for donating, nor are they ever paid to donate.

"If you want to know what saving a life is, donate your marrow," Gonzales said.

For more information about the National Marrow Donor Program, visit marrow.org/help, or call 1-800-MARROW2. For more information about the C.W. Bill Young/ DoD Marrow Donor Program, visit dodmarrow.com, or call 1-800-MARROW3.
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