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Campus Community Comes Together to Help a Classmate

January 8, 2016

RHIT Bone Marrow Screening Articleimage

Adding Names To Registry: Students, faculty, and staff members added their names on the national bone marrow donor registry after participating in a campus event. Freshman Jake Meister needs a stem-cell transplant after successfully battling leukemia.

Rose-Hulman’s family atmosphere was once again showcased as the campus community came together in hopes of providing the final missing link to freshman Jake Meister’s recovery efforts in a lengthy battle against a rare form of leukemia.

The cancer survivor now requires a stem-cell transplant to improve his body’s immune system, severely weakened by the effects of chemotherapy treatments. He has been hospitalized at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center in Indianapolis since early this winter.

Several students, faculty, and staff members have put their names on the national bone marrow donor registry. A public awareness campus drive, conducted on January 8, was supported by the Office of Student Affairs and organized by his fellow Rose-Hulman classmates, members of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity (which Meister pledged to join last fall), and other campus organizations.

“Jake quickly made an impression with others on our campus. He has a great can-do personality, and we can’t wait for him to come back to be a member of the Rose-Hulman community once his recovery is complete,” says Tom Miller, associate vice president and dean of students.

Meister’s immune system has been under attack for most of his life. He became ill once again in his first quarter as a computer science major at Rose-Hulman. Early in the winter term, the 19-year-old could not walk to classes, eat meals in the student union’s cafeteria, or socialize with others. Admission to the IU Medical Center on December 4 soon brought forth an Acute Myeloid Leukemia blood cancer diagnosis, with a genetic mutation that’s been found in only 29 other people since 2010.

Jake’s mother, Marianne, reports chemotherapy treatments have been successful in eliminating the cancer from the blood system, but destroyed most of his healthy blood cells. He now will need a stem-cell transplant from a match on the national bone marrow registry. Without a match, Meister will be dependent on blood transfusions for the rest of his life, and won’t be able to realize his dream of being a computer scientist.

His family became alarmed to find the low number of available names – and possible matches – on the registry. That’s when a Be The Match public-awareness campaign was organized at Rose-Hulman and Jake’s hometown of Paris, Illinois to increase the pool of possible donors. A website, http://join.bethematch.org/JacobMeister, was also developed. Cheek swabs can be mailed to electronic registrants to complete and return in a postage-paid envelope.

“The more names, the more possibilities to help others,” says Marianne.