By Adam C. Brooks
On Thursday, July 11. Tanner Hawthorne, a Lumberton police department officer wasn’t in uniform serving the community as usual, instead he was serving in a different way. What was he doing you may ask? He was donating bone marrow at Methodist Hospital in Houston to a perfect stranger with leukemia in hopes of saving their life.
Hawthorne attended the Police Academy at Lamar Institute of Technology (LIT), in Beaumont and graduated in 2014, it was there that he was approached by a foundation called “Be the Match” where he would make the decision to serve others in another capacity.
“You could sign up and enter into a national registry for bone marrow, all they did was give me a cheek swab and that was it. Doctors or whoever check it daily and one day it showed that their patient was a match with me. They called me and said do you still want to do it? And I said that’s why I signed up,” said Hawthorne.
“Be the Match” according to their website is a foundation for thousands of people diagnosed every year with life-threatening blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma. Over the past 30 years, Be the Match, operated by the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP), has managed the largest and most diverse marrow registry in the world. They were able to talk to students about being part of a national registry for bone marrow transplants.
“After I went to Houston and did my physical to make sure nothing was wrong with me, I had two options to choose from. The way I chose, they don’t actually do surgery and take your bone marrow. Instead, they take your stem cells and it’s called PBSC.” Hawthorne explained.
The two options are explained in further detail on the Be the Match website. For the transplant, one is the surgical process for taking your bone marrow, the other option is known as PBSC donation where you have to take two shots of Filgrastim, a medication that increases the number of blood-forming cells in your bloodstream, a day for five days. It makes your body mass produce bone stem cells, and the way your body copes with the excess amount of extra stem cells is it tries to kick it out through your blood stream. Blood is removed through a needle on one arm and passed through a machine that separates out the blood-forming cells. The remaining blood is returned to you through the other arm.
“The shots... if you could think of how bad someone feels when they have the flu with the body aches and you double that, that’s how it feels. Extreme muscle and bone soreness from my body mass producing extra stem cells. The day I went, they hooked me up to a machine in both arms. It took five hours for them to get the amount they needed.”
Although Tanner says he experienced some soreness, it was nothing compared to what the person on the receiving end must have endured. “I risk my life every day for people I don’t know and so do my co-workers. Every day we put our lives on the line. There isn’t one of us that wouldn’t go on a call for someone that called and said they need us; this isn’t any different. If I can help someone, I’m going too.” He continued, “I guess what really got me through it was, heaven forbid, if it was one of my family members, friends, or someone I really cared about that needed this. If there was someone out there that could help me or them, I would want them to go through five days of soreness if it could possibly save my life.”
This process required some time off from the job, but it wasn’t something his Chief would ever deny, “I’m proud of him, and that’s Tanner. He comes from a good family and it’s in his nature to be compassionate and want to help others. That’s one of the things that makes him a good cop,” said Chief Danny Sullins.
When asked, do you know anything about this person? Have you or will you ever meet them?
“It’s almost all anonymous, I know very few details. I do know it’s a 44-year-old male with leukemia. After donating nine months from the day he receives the stem cells, I will get an update on him. Whether it was a success and he’s in remission, it didn’t work, and it was a failure, or three he passed away. Also, three months after that if we both agree we get to meet." And rest assure if that meeting happens, the Lumberton Ledger will have a follow up to this story.
Tanner has been with the Lumberton PD for a year and nine months, before that he was with the Hardin County Sheriffs office for three years.