A month after learning she had leukemia, Janie Magruder’s prayers were answered: using the national bone marrow registry Be the Match, the Mayo Clinic had found a perfect match to be her donor. Jack Milligan, a senior economic major at Texas A&M University, was going to save her life. She was going to have Aggie blood.
“I knew nothing about Be the Match before I was diagnosed, and I wish I had,” Magruder said. “Now I’m too old to sign up, but my three sons have.”
Like her sons, Milligan was young and healthy enough to register as a potential donor when he was pledging Delta Tau Delta. Be the Match was the fraternity’s philanthropy, and already six members had helped save lives as donors.
“Our whole pledge class signed up,” Milligan said. “I never really thought it would end up happening, because the chances are supposed to be one in 500. When I got the phone call a year later, I was shocked, but also excited.”
By this point, Magruder had already undergone three rounds of chemotherapy, and time was of the essence. Once he was a confirmed perfect match, things moved quickly. For several days before the transplant, Be the Match sent a nurse to Milligan’s home to give him painful injections to increase his white blood cell count. They also paid for him and his mom’s travel expenses when he reported to Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center in Houston, where he gave his blood to save a stranger.
“Jack really had the rough part of this,” Magruder said. “Aside from the shots, he had to have his blood sort of recycled out of one arm and run through a machine to take out what they needed, and then send it back into his other arm. All I had to do was sit there while they hooked me to a bag of his blood cells.”
“What I had to do is nothing compared to having leukemia,” he said.
Milligan’s blood cells were able to completely merge with Magruder’s, sending her into remission. Because the donor program is anonymous to protect the privacy of both the donor and recipient, the two knew nothing about each other, besides their ages and gender. But a year later, Magruder decided she wanted to meet this young man who had saved her life.
“We exchanged emails and then when we finally spoke over the phone, I was speechless, and that never happens to me,” Magruder said. “It turns out we have some very interesting similarities—he and my husband have the same first name, he and I have the same initials, he’s from Kansas City like my husband is…it just felt like it was meant to be.”
Though they haven’t met in person yet, the two stay in touch through email and social media. Magruder is ecstatic to be privy to his milestones and achievements like his upcoming graduation. He will be attending law school at Southern Methodist University in the fall.
“He’s just a remarkable young man,” she said. “He’s very smart but also very compassionate and just a good soul.”
For his part, Milligan is just happy that Magruder is able to enjoy life with her family in Arizona. He also advocates strongly for Be the Match, and is proud of his fraternity’s dedication to the program. Last year, he ran his fraternity’s Be the Match drive, where he gave his first-hand account of one of the Aggie core values: selfless service.
“I’m so glad I did this, and I wish everyone would,” he said. “It’s so little out of your life and it can make all the difference in the world to someone. It’s hard to wrap my mind around the fact that I saved someone’s life.”
One could say that as an Aggie, selfless service is in his blood.
To read more of Magruder’s story, click here.
This story by Heather Rodriguez originally appeared on the College of Liberal Arts website.