Chris Hinkebein’s Be the Match Journey: Part 1 – You’re a Match

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 1.20.18 PMChris Hinkebein, 24 Foundation rider, closed out the year helping staff finish the 2014 event season, but little did he know his help would reach far beyond setting up and taking down the events. Hinkebein found out in late fall that he was a bone marrow match for a cancer patient in need of a transplant through Be the Match.

Hinkebein was first introduced to Be The Match (BTM) through his college football coach at the University of Virginia (UVA), Mike London.  Coach London’s daughter was diagnosed with leukemia at an early age and was in need of a transplant.  After they searched the registry there were no matches for her, so they began to look to immediate family as a last resort. Typically it is very rare for immediate family to be a match, but Coach London was in fact a match.

“Coach London really pushed to have the team and students at UVA sign up, so every year we would spend a day on campus recruiting members of the university community to register,” said Chris Hinkebein, 24 Foundation rider and Be the Match donor.  “Coach London’s efforts recruit hundreds of new registrants each year and have paired many patients with potential donors.”

Since Coach London began his efforts four years ago, Hinkebein is the fifth football player who has been notified he is a match since joining the Be the Match registry.

“My initial motivation really wasn’t me asking myself ‘Why?’ it was more ‘Why not?’,” Hinkebein said.  “The process to register is so simple and could potentially be a life saving decision.  Knowing if the roles were reversed and myself or someone in my family needed a transplant I would be so grateful for the people who signed up to give another chance at life.”

After getting a quick mouth swab to join the BTM registry, Chris was later notified that he was a potential match for someone in need of a bone marrow transplant. The next step was to get blood drawn to ensure he was a perfect match for the patient. Two months passed and Chris was informed he was indeed a perfect match for the prospective patient in need.

Hinkebein was ecstatic to find out he was a match. Receiving the news that he has the opportunity to save someone’s life is truly humbling to him.

“We all get in the daily grind of work and society, but hearing the news of being a match really puts life back into perspective as to what is really important,” Hinkebein said.

Since finding out he was a match, the process has quickly ramped up and required Hinkebein to be in constant communication with a BTM representative. Hinkebein mentioned that his BTM representative has made the donation process “a breeze” and has been great to work with in regards to planning appointments that fit his schedule.

Hinkebein’s donation will be performed the traditional way, where doctors will insert a needle in my hip to extract the marrow.  The process will take place at UNC-Chapel Hill and should last no more than two hours. The only information Hinkebein was given about the patient was age, gender, and disease type. This information is confidential, but both the donor and patient will have the opportunity to meet one another after the extraction and transplant procedures are complete if both parties agree. 

“Since the process has begun I feel as if I have a connection to the patient,  to someone who I don’t even know and possibly never will,” Hinkebein said. “It is a very unique relationship that is hard to explain, but definitely exciting and I wouldn’t trade the opportunity for anything.”

Fielding constant questions about how he feels going in to the procedure, if he is nervous or if it will hurt, Chris is just ready.  While like most people, he does not like surgery, this is a unique situation that has given him no apprehensions, but rather given him something to look forward to.

“No matter how much the process may hurt, the patient I am donating to is dying, so their pain and hurt is much greater than anything I will endure,” Hinkebein said. “If I can offer someone the opportunity at a second chance at life, I will, no matter how painful the process may be because I would hope someone would do the same in return for myself, my family, my friends or any other complete stranger if they are afforded the opportunity.”