Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 10/6/14
By Kristine Woods, originally posted on villanova.com on 9/18/14
Nick Tortoriello, a sophomore on the Villanova Men’s Lacrosse team, never dreamt that prior to returning to school for the fall semester that he would be presented with the opportunity to save a life, but that’s exactly what happened in June when he discovered he was a bone marrow match for a 66-year old woman battling a life-threatening illness.
As a freshman last April, Tortoriello joined the registry of the Be The Match Foundation during a drive hosted on campus by Villanova football head coach Andy Talley. Talley, in his 22nd year of association with the National Marrow Donor Program, hosts annual testing drives to get people entered into the national registry. The 2014 drive was held last April and resulted in 580 people joining the database.
“I found out this summer that I was a match and the foundation asked if I would be interested,” said Tortoriello. “I took some basic blood tests and they told me I was the best match out of the two or three people they picked initially for the procedure. From that point on, it was a no brainer.”
The epitome of a Villanova student-athlete, Tortoriello has excelled both in the classroom and on the field during his first year on campus. Of over 550 student-athletes across 24 varsity sports for the Wildcats, Tortoriello was just one of 12 that posted a perfect 4.0 GPA for the spring 2014 semester. His cumulative GPA stands at 3.94 while the midfielder appeared in five games during his freshman season. With the chance to potentially save another person’s life, Tortoriello jumped at the opportunity.
“It feels really humbling that I was able to donate because so many people send their swabs in and don’t get the call. For me, how could I say no? Any other answer other than `yes’ just wasn’t an option and wouldn’t work for me. I feel really lucky to be able to do it and it’s a pretty amazing thing to actually be a match.”
Of the two ways to donate bone marrow, Tortoriello opted for surgery which was done on Monday, September 16th. During the procedure which occurs under general anesthesia, a needle is inserted into the pelvis where the bone marrow is extracted that will be used for the receiver. The marrow is given shortly thereafter to the match.
Due to the effects of the surgery which result in a small amount of physical pain and fatigue, Tortoriello will most likely sit out for up to a month during the fall semester of off-season lacrosse practice. Despite missing training, Tortoriello notes it’s a very small sacrifice when presented with the opportunity to save a life.
“I just want everyone to know how easy it all actually is. People think that the process is long and complicated but you’re only taking out one or two days over a few months and I was only in recovery from surgery for about two hours. It’s easy, safe, and a great opportunity.”
Nationally, the odds are one in 20,000 of finding bone marrow donors for those with life-threatening blood diseases. For members of the African-American community, the odds are even worse – one in one million.
Thousands of patients with leukemia and other diseases need bone marrow transplants and depend on the Be The Match Registry to find a donor. For a successful transplant, a patient needs a matching donor. Although there are more than 20 million registered donors there are still only a few hundred matches found each year.
In 2009, Talley started the “Get in the Game and Save a Life” National Bone Marrow registration campaign where he’s enlisted over 40 college programs from all levels to take part in the campaign. Over the last five years, the group has tested over 40,000 potential donors.
For further information on how you can be a part of the National Marrow Donor Program, go to www.talleybonemarrow.org.