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  • Great Bay Community College Vows to Find A Bone Marrow Donor for One of Its Own

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    February 02, 2018
    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE January 30, 2018
    Contact: Lisa Proulx
    Public Information Officer
    Great Bay Community College
    (603) 427-7641
    Great Bay Community College Vows to Find A Bone Marrow
    Donor for One of Its Own
    Student Who Survived a Terrible Car Crash is Now Battling for His Life Once Again
    PORTSMOUTH - All things considered, Cameron Russell is doing well. In 16 months, he survived a car accident that left him in a coma for three weeks, he survived one round of treatment for leukemia and is in the thick of his second fight with the disease as he awaits another bone-marrow transplant.

    “I feel just about as 100 percent as I could, other than I do not have any hair right now. That’s from the chemo,” said Russell, a Great Bay Community College student. “Socially, I feel fine. My friends and the Great Bay community have been really supportive. And emotionally, for the most part, my attitude is, ‘Let’s get this done, let’s do the best we can and let’s get on with the rest of my life.’”

    Russell, 19, is awaiting his second bone-marrow transplant in a year. His medical team at Massachusetts General Hospital had a donor lined up, but the transplant was postponed when the donor’s circumstances changed.

    With a sense of urgency to find a suitable donor for Russell, Great Bay is hosting a bone-marrow registration drive from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday. Feb. 26, on campus. It is organized by members of the faculty and the Great Bay Student Nurses Association, in coordination with DKMS, an international nonprofit organization that fights blood diseases and disorders by recruiting bone-marrow donors. The drive will screen people as possible donors to help Russell and others awaiting bone-marrow transplants.

    The registration process takes about 10 minutes, and involves a simple swab of the inside of the mouth cheek, which is sent to DKMS for analysis and registration in a bank of potential donors, said Peter Hopkinson, a Great Bay math teacher who befriended Russell and has helped organize the drive.

    “We’re calling it Cameron’s Century Challenge, because we want to register at least 100 people,” Hopkinson said. “But it’s really, ‘Great Bay looks after one of its own.’ We are on a mission. Cameron needs a match. The statistics from DKMS say that 50 percent of the people who need bone-marrow transplants are unable to find a match. If you do not find a match and you need bone marrow, it’s a grave situation. This is an urgent situation.”

    Russell’s troubles began Oct. 1, 2016, when he crashed his pickup truck in Newmarket while traveling south on NH 108. He hit a tree, and suffered critical injuries. He was first taken to Exeter Hospital, and then to Mass General, where he was in a coma for three weeks.

    During his treatment of injuries from the crash, doctors discovered that Russell also had leukemia. His first round of cancer treatment commenced after he began recovering from his injuries, and included chemotherapy and a bone-marrow transplant. The leukemia recurred this past fall, and Russell now faces a second round of treatment.

    Hopkinson learned about the accident through media reports, and organized a card drive, where Russell’s classmates wrote and sent sympathy cards while Russell recovered from the accident. As his condition became more complicated and serious, the level of commitment from the school increased. The Great Bay community supported him generally and in practical ways. Some of his teachers have worked with him outside of school to help him with his studies, and his peers supported him by cheering him on and letting him know they are pulling for him.

    “I met Cameron when he was 18, right out of high school,” Hopkinson said. “He was one of those kids who was always open for conversation, and talkative. He was an interesting kid, and everybody liked him.”

    The support of the Great Bay community made a difference, Russell said.

    “Honestly, I always saw myself as just another student folks knew about and liked. I didn’t realize so many people cared about me as much as they do,” he said. “While in Mass General, I got so many cards signed by all sorts of kids. Everybody wished me the best, and the school as whole is working toward this bone-marrow drive. There are so many people who are not at lucky as I am.”

    Russell is committed to continuing his studies at Great Bay. He finished one of his classes online during his recovery, and he is working toward finishing Hopkinson’s math class. He’s taken the class twice – the first class cut short because of his accident, and the second when his leukemia recurred.

    “My professors have been incredibly helpful. I can’t say enough,” Russell said. “As far as school is concerned, despite the fact that I have had to put it on hold a few times, it has amplified my desire to finish up and do well.”

    “We’re really excited about the enthusiasm the Great Bay community has shown with this. It’s heart-warming,” Hopkinson said. “Cameron is a good student, a good kid. His spirit throughout this whole process has been inspiring.”

    Laurie Murray, advisor to the Great Bay Student Nurses Association, said the enthusiasm for the event has been infectious. “I’m excited that this is becoming such a well-known event. This will benefit Cameron and so many other patients in his position,” Murray said. “The student nurses are extremely excited to be part of this, and to know that this could help Cameron in any way is a tremendously motivating factor.”

    Anyone between the ages of 18 and 55 is eligible to register to become a bone-marrow donor and there is no cost to this. People older than 55 or others who are not able to register can participate by "Sponsoring A Swab". Each swab costs $45 to process, and people will be able to donate money to help pay for the processing costs during the campus drive.  All donations are tax deductible and go directly to DKMS solely for use in processing the swabs, Hopkinson said.  A donation site has been set up at https://getinvolved.dkms.org/CameronsChallenge Questions can be directed to Peter Hopkinson at Phopkinson@ccsnh.edu.

    The Great Bay Nurses Association is organizing the event and currently is in need volunteers the day of the event from 9-4 on February 26 and to promote the event ahead of time.  Anyone interested can contact Laurie Murray, Nursing Department Faculty, Great Bay CC at lmurray@ccsnh.edu.

    Russell is grateful and optimistic. After surviving the accident and one round of leukemia, he’s ready for whatever comes next. “When I woke up from that coma, I saw the world in a different light. I am ready to get healthy, finish school and get on with my life,” he said.
    About Great Bay Community College
    Great Bay Community College is a comprehensive postsecondary institution offering quality academic and professional and technical education in support of workforce development and lifelong learning. Great Bay Community College is part of the Community College System of New Hampshire, a public system of higher education consisting of seven colleges in Berlin, Claremont, Laconia, Concord, Manchester, Nashua, and Portsmouth. The colleges offer Associate degrees and career training in technical, professional and general fields, including transfer pathways to baccalaureate degrees. The college’s second campus, the Advanced Technology & Academic Center is now open in Rochester offering academic courses and a degree program in Advanced Composites Manufacturing. For more information on Great Bay Community College, visit www.greatbay.edu. 

    About DKMS
    DKMS is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to eradicating blood cancers like Leukemia and other blood-related illnesses inspiring both men and women around the world to register as bone marrow and blood stem cell donors. DKMS is providing patients with a second chance at life, working closely with families from diagnosis to transplant and beyond. The donor journey begins with a swab of the cheek that takes less than 60 seconds and can be the action that leads to a lifesaving transplant. DKMS, originally founded in Germany in 1991 by Dr. Peter Harf, has organizations in Poland, Chile, the United Kingdom and the United States. The U.S. office was started in 2004. Globally, DKMS has registered more than 7.8 million people. To join the fight against blood cancer or for more information, please go to dkms.org.

    Lisa Proulx
    (603) 772-1194