“Women and men for and with others” is a hallmark of the Creighton education. Students perform selfless acts in countless ways to help friends, family, professors and even those they will never meet. For Nick Mason, DPT’18, a swab of his cheek would make a difference for a stranger.
Mason started his altruistic journey in January 2017, during his third year of the physical therapy program, when he participated in the School of Pharmacy and Health Professions’ Be The Match. The event, a bone-marrow donation screening, was held in support of Julie Hoffman, PT, DPT, CCS, adjunct associate professor, who had been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.
“Most people who get that diagnosis require a bone-marrow transplant,” says Hoffman. Be The Match, operated by the National Marrow Donor Program, looks to find potential donors for the thousands of people diagnosed every year with life-threatening blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma.
“I was honored and touched that they wanted to do something like that. Because it’s not without some work,” says Hoffman. “But you have the opportunity to save someone’s life.”
Mason understands the call to help others. He earned his undergrad degree at the Catholic and Jesuit Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, and decided on Creighton as the right fit for his next degree. “Creighton stands out as far as PT programs and for its teachers and clinical education,” he says, “and for learning how to treat people based on the whole person.”
Mason wanted to do his part to help Hoffman. At Be The Match, he had his cheek swabbed, which is the first step in the process to determine match potential. Positive news came while he was celebrating Christmas in Las Vegas with his sister and brother-in-law. “I got a call and they said ‘you’re definitely a match,’” he says. “It was unexpected to hear.”
He began the donation procedures from Texas, where he was starting a four-month-long clinical rotation in rehabilitation at Houston Methodist. While helping post-surgical patients return to everyday life, Mason had to undergo his own kind of labor—several physical screenings, blood donations and health questionnaires—before he got the green light to make his bone-marrow donation.
Meanwhile, Hoffman (at left) had received a better prognosis: Her type of cancer did not demand a bone-marrow transplant, but she did need chemotherapy treatment. She spent over 70 days in the hospital during a six-month span and received 100 blood and platelet transfusions throughout her treatment
“I have a great deal of respect for those people who make donations,” says Hoffman, who is now a full year in recovery. She met a lot of people who were receiving treatment alongside her and awaiting a sign of hope. “When they learned they had a match, it was tears of joy,” she says. “I tried to share that with Nick; giving the gift of life to someone.”
Mason spoke with Hoffman a few times throughout the year. “She was curious about my well-being,” he says. “I appreciated that.”
He’s grateful that his donation could make an impact on someone, too. Patient details are confidential, but “I know I was the perfect match for him,” says Mason, who graduated this month and plans to work in sports orthopedics. “As a future health care provider, we do what is necessary to benefit the patient. I’m thankful for the whole process and that I was able to benefit someone out there.”
“Hopefully he’s doing OK now.”