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The Antelope

Ickler donates for life-saving treatment

Autumn Ickler prepares for her surgery to donate her bone marrow to someone in need.


It is amazing that a simple donation can save the life of another person. Many of us have donated blood, but donating bone marrow is a completely different experience. 

UNK student Autumn Ickler, a junior, knows this experience firsthand. 

Be The Match®, an organization that matches patients in need of bone marrow transplants with donors, frequently visits college campuses in search of potential donors. When they visited the UNK campus, Ickler was eager to be put on the donor registry. Typically, only one in 450 registered donors is actually called upon to give, and Ickler was the lucky one. 

Ickler received a phone call and text from Be The Match® saying that she was a match and that they would like to move forward with the donation process. Ickler was eager to donate and gave her consent without hesitation. Although they were worried at first, her family was quick to support her decision to have the surgery and donate her bone marrow.

Before her donation, Ickler went through a series of health screenings, including a two-hour phone conversation in which the process was explained, they analyzed her medical history, and she was able to ask questions. Ickler said, “One of the first things I asked was ‘When can I do this again, and how many times?’” After some tests, it was clear that Ickler was a match, and a surgery was scheduled for January 21st at the Buffet Cancer Center in Omaha.  

She went into surgery without fear knowing that she was doing something valuable. Ickler was put under anesthesia while doctors made six incisions and used a syringe to draw 1-1.5 liters of bone marrow from her pelvis. In most cases, the donation is an outpatient surgery, but Ickler had to stay overnight due to some complications from low hemoglobin. She returned home the next day but was still experiencing problems. She was then admitted to the emergency room in Plainview, NE where she received a blood transfusion. Ickler felt much better after the transfusion and quickly returned to her normal state of health. 

Even after enduring the inconveniences of the complications, Ickler still had a good experience overall and would do it all over again. “A week and two days of pain was worth it to give someone their life back,” Ickler said. She received excellent care at the medical centers, and Be The Match® covered all of her expenses. “I can’t thank them enough,” Ickler said, though she is the one that deserves the thanks.  

Ickler doesn’t know much about the recipient of her donation other than she is a 54-year-old cancer patient that lives somewhere in the United States, but she feels a close connection to her. When a year has passed after the operation, the donor and recipient will have the opportunity to meet one another if both parties give consent. Ickler can’t wait to meet the person that now has a piece of her, but she would understand if the recipient doesn’t wish to get in touch. 

This experience was eye-opening for Ickler, and she advises everyone who is eligible to register as a bone marrow donor. She encourages people to consider how they would feel if their loved one needed a transplant, but there were no available donors. She believes that if more people registered, more lives could be restored. 

Overall, donating bone marrow was a rewarding experience for Ickler, and she is glad that she had this opportunity. This experience has further ingrained a motto by which she has always strived to live. Ickler said, “Love strangers, be kind, and don’t judge because you never know what someone is going through.”

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