A Richmond area native who is an award-winning community advocate and research associate at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory can now add “life saver” to his growing resume.
Robin Lόpez, a De Anza High graduate known for his volunteer work in promoting science careers to youth, donated bone marrow as a volunteer with Be The Match earlier this year and is now spreading the word about his experience to get other potential donors to sign up.
In a recent Q&A interview on the Berkeley Lab website, Lόpez said he was first introduced to Be The Match at age 18, when he and a friend were at a bone marrow donor drive at UC Berkeley. He joined the Be The Match registry for the free t-shirt, although he wasn’t at all interested in donating at the time. After receiving monthly email communications from the organization for about 10 years, Lόpez received a call in November 2017 informing him he was the only potential match for a patient out of 20 million individuals in the national registry.
“After losing my best friend to suicide, I promised myself that if I ever had the chance to save someone’s life, I would,” Lόpez said in the interview.
The patient who benefited from Lόpez’s contribution is a 60-year-old man battling Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
“I was informed that his condition was at a stage in which the bone marrow donation was urgently needed,” Lόpez said. “Hence, I had quite a rushed process to make this happen, amidst travels and Ph.D. applications.”
Leading up to the bone marrow donation, Lόpez underwent a series of physicals and blood work to ensure he was healthy enough and a perfect match. He was scheduled for the donation on March 20 — just four days after he was set to take his comprehensive exam for his Master’s degree at San Jose State University (an exam in Water Resources Engineering).
The procedure happened at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington D.C., and after an operation that took about one-and-a-half hours, Lόpez woke up “in complete shock that I actually went through with it.”
The operation went smoothly, and Lόpez was discharged from the hospital the following day, but he was in a lot of pain and unable to walk for several days.
“Since then, I have been in recovery – even to this day,” Lόpez said. “I still experience some slight back pain, which has been difficult, because it’s limited the amount of work I can perform, and the opportunities for field work which I desperately want to participate in again.”
Despite the lingering pain, Lόpez highly encourages others to Be The Match.
“It’s important that others seriously consider joining or motivate young people in their family to join, to help save lives,” Lopez said in the Q&A. “It only takes one person to save a life.”
Lόpez says he will be able to correspond anonymously with the recipient of his bone marrow donation in March, and a year later, the two could decide to end confidentiality and meet each other.
To join Be The Match, click join.bethematch.org/richmondlyfe.