A Howard University volleyball player missed one of the most important matches of her collegiate career for the match of a lifetime. According to People, Jurnee Farrell decided to opt out of competing in her final conference tournament to make a stem cell donation to a stranger battling leukemia.
Two years ago, Farrell got involved with Be the Match; a nonprofit organization that is the global leader in bone marrow transplantation. She signed up to be a part of a registry of stem cell and bone marrow donors. Before the 2019 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference kicked off Farrell—a senior at Howard who is pursuing a degree in criminal justice—received a call informing her that she was a match for a 57-year-old woman with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Undergoing the stem cell donation procedure meant that Farrell would have to miss a few games during the tournament due to recovery but making the sacrifice didn’t bother her. “I said of course because, I mean, I was saving somebody’s life and they’re on a timeline. I’m not really,” she told the news outlet. “I had to sacrifice that. It was okay. It was worth it.”
Farrell had the surgery in November and was able to travel with her team to the finals to cheer them on. The Bisons advanced to the NCAA tournament to compete against the University of Pittsburgh on December 6 but ended up falling short of a win.
Farrell’s selfless act has inspired those close to her to become donors. Her family says they are going to get involved with Be the Match. Farrell says she hopes her journey inspires more African Americans to sign up for the Be the Match registry. “That was one of the bigger things for me. Being an advocate and being African American has just been really cool and has been a big part of this whole process,” she said.
There is a high demand for Black bone marrow donors. Research shows that only 23 percent of Black patients who need a bone marrow transplant are able to find a match.