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USFJ Army officer donates bone marrow

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- Army Lt. Col. Matt Rasmussen, United States Forces Japan, deputy director for Manpower, Personnel and Support, recently became
a bone marrow donor for an anonymous leukemia patient. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Dominique Brown)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- Army Lt. Col. Matt Rasmussen, United States Forces Japan, deputy director for Manpower, Personnel and Support, recently became a bone marrow donor for an anonymous leukemia patient. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Dominique Brown)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- A Yokota Air Base community member assigned to United States Forces Japan recently became a bone marrow donor, potentially saving the life of an anonymous leukemia patient.

Lt. Colonel Matt Rasmussen, USFJ deputy director for Manpower, Personnel and Support, had been sampled as a donor and put in the National Bone Marrow Registry several years ago.

"I was tested while attending the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in the fall of 2003 when a class sponsored the testing as a community service project," said Colonel Rasmussen.

Three years passed before he heard anything more about it. "I was contacted in October 2006 as a possible match so the program coordinated with the Yokota hospital for an updated blood sample," said the Colonel. "I was the best match for the recipient so I was flown to Georgetown University Hospital in Washington D.C. where the program is based for a complete physical."

After that, Colonel Rasmussen was flown out a second time to Georgetown University Hospital in December to complete the five day procedure. "For the first four days, I just spent approximately 20 minutes each day receiving a synthetic hormone injection called filgrastim to increase the number of blood-forming cells in the bloodstream," he said. "The drug can make you experience flu-like symptoms and general bone and muscle aches."

On day five, blood is removed through a sterile needle in one arm and passed through a machine that separates out the blood stem cells for the recipient. The remaining blood is returned to the body through the other arm.

"It is absolutely no surprise to see Lieutenant Colonel Rasmussen step up and help out someone he has never met," said Charles Kelker, USFJ director for Manpower, Personnel and Support, "What is even more impressive to me is that his donation will probably save a life."

"It is a good feeling to be able to help another person, especially with a potential life-saving gift such as bone marrow," said the Colonel. "I was particularly glad to be able to donate during the holidays, hoping that I was truly providing the gift of a better or longer life."

According to the NMDP, a marrow or blood cell transplant is a potentially life-saving treatment for patients with leukemia, lymphoma and other blood diseases. A small blood sample or swab of cheek cells is taken and tested to determine the donor's tissue type.

Participation in the program is 100 percent voluntary and does not obligate a person to donate as volunteers can change their mind at any time during the process. For more information visit http://www.dodmarrow.org or http://www.marrow.org.