KINGSTON, R.I. – For the second time in nine months, a Rhode Island student-athlete is helping save a life by donating bone marrow.
URI nursing student Grace Rignanese — who was a captain for the rowing team as a senior last spring — completed a bone marrow donation on Wednesday at the Rhode Island Blood Center in Providence. Her marrow will be given to an 18-year-old girl.
“It’s pretty amazing to think that you have the opportunity to change somebody else’s life for the better,” said Rignanese, who is from Poughkeepsie, N.Y. “When I found out that I was an exact match, the decision to donate was really a no-brainer.”
Rignanese — who helped Rhode Island win the Atlantic 10 championship during her junior and freshman seasons — registered as a possible marrow donor during her sophomore year at the URI football team’s annual marrow drive. It wasn’t until nearly three years later, last Dec. 20, that she learned she was a perfect match for the young girl.
Rignanese hopes to meet the patient eventually, but is only allowed anonymous written contact for the first year after the donation. Whether or not they meet after that will be up to the recipient.
There were several consultations and tests in the weeks leading up to the actual donation. Rignanese also researched the donation process to prepare herself.
While she knew the donation itself would take a physical toll, there was no questioning whether or not to follow through.
“Anytime I got nervous about it, I would think more about the person this was going to be helping,” Rignanese said. “Whatever I’ll be going through won’t compare to what they are dealing with.”
Rignanese joins current URI football player Matt Greenhalgh as exact bone marrow matches found through the football team’s annual bone marrow registration drive on behalf of the National Marrow Donor Program. Greenhalgh — who was honored during halftime of the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans earlier this month — saved the life of a leukemia patient with his donation.
URI football head coach Joe Trainer has organized the marrow drive each of the last three years. Over that span, the football players have recruited more than 700 new registrants, including Rignanese and Greenhalgh. This year’s Marrow Donor Drive will be held on Thursday, April 26.
“To have two donors from our drive is just incredible,” Trainer said. “Hopefully this continues to raise awareness for our Marrow Donor Drive and the need for potential donors.”