University of Florida Lacrosse Player Saves Life of Man Battling Leukemia

via Gift of Life website (thanks to Jac Coyne of the MCLA for sending me this)

Mar 01, 2023 by Gift of Life DONOR STORY

Kellen (FLN: Kellen Reilly, a sophomore at UF and a Plant alum) was in his first year at the University of Florida when, during lacrosse practice, he swabbed to join the marrow registry at a drive organized by the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. 

“I decided to join the registry because there was an opportunity to save a life at no cost,” said Kellen. “It was a no brainer.” 

Less than a year after registering, Kellen got the call that he was a match for a man in his mid-30s battling Acute Myelogenous Leukemia. 

“I woke up from a nap and no more than 20 seconds after I grabbed my phone I got the call,” said Kellen. “At first, I was so dazed and out of it that I forgot I had swabbed and I thought they had the wrong number. After 10-20 seconds though, my brain came to life and everything clicked.” 

Kellen told his parents and brother to share the good news. After a few minutes of explanation about the process, his family was happy to hear about the opportunity and asked what the next steps were. 

Peripheral blood stem cell donors from Gift of Life’s registry are given the option to come to the headquarters in Boca Raton, Fla. for their collection at the Adelson Gift of Life-Be The Match Collection Center. Donors do not incur any expenses, so travel, accommodations and any needed medical exams are arranged by Gift of Life, and a meal stipend is provided.  

On the day of his donation, a car service picked Kellen up and brought him to the Gift of Life donation center.

“The donation process was honestly a great time,” said Kellen. “I had a great reason to sit on a recliner for six hours, watch three-and-a-half movies on Netflix, and have tasty Mexican food brought to me – it was beyond awesome. After the process finished, my body was stiff and exhausted. I went home and took the nap of a lifetime and got a nice, greasy Philly cheese steak with my dad afterward. Overall, it was a great day. I felt no side effects the day after, and was back taking classes and working out the following week.” 

Donating blood stem cells has given Kellen a new perspective on life.

“You never know what someone is going through or how fast your life can change in a blink,” he said. “I have learned to take the best moments in and never take everyday life tasks for granted.”

Kellen would also love the opportunity to meet his recipient someday, if possible. In the United States, donors and recipients must remain anonymous for the first year after the transplant. After that year, if both agree, they may exchange contact information and meet in person. 

Kellen would also like people to know that, “If you have the opportunity to join the registry, do it in a heartbeat. It was an awesome experience.” 

Kellen, 19, is currently a student at the University of Florida and is a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. Kellen is also a member of the lacrosse team. In his free time, he enjoys playing chess and has started doing yoga to help loosen up.