Local teacher flies to NY to donate white blood cells for lifesaving treatment
Dyersburg Middle School band instructor Bill Van Sant has been enhancing the lives of others through music for decades. And while he is also known as a true role model and mentor to his students through his capacity as an educator, Van Sant’s most recent contribution is one that will impact the lives of countless individuals across the nation.
Back in November, Be the Match Bio Therapies, a subsidiary of the National Marrow Donor program, reached out to Van Sant to see if he would be interested in donating white blood cells. Van Sant, who has been on the Bone Marrow registry with the donor program since 2010, was happy to oblige.
“I asked them if it would help people, and they told me it would so I said, ‘OK, let’s do it,” said Van Sant. “They asked me a lot of questions, similar to those asked when you donate blood. Then they took multiple blood samples to send to labs to verify I still had proper antigen in my white blood cells. Afterwards, they asked me to make a donation.”
On Dec. 18, Van Sant was flown to LaGuardia, N.Y., and transported to a hotel lodging in Manhattan. For 4 hours the next day, he sat patiently, as technicians took white blood cells from both his arms.
“They said that a portion of my donation will be used for research, and a portion of it will be used to help heart transplant patients and lung transplant patients to survive their procedure,” explained Van Sant. “They also told me my donation could be used to assist patients with multiple sclerosis. I was happy to make the donation. As long as it helps other, I am in!”
Van Sant is currently on the Blood Board for Dyer County through Lifeline, and donates one pint of whole blood every 56 days. This procedure marked his first experience undergoing apheresis.
A native of Long Island, Van Sant spent his free time during the trip visiting with his brother-in-law and sister, taking the train to NYC from Long Island for a lunch and dinner visit.
“I am so happy that I got to see a little of my hometown area and, more importantly, I got the opportunity to help others live,” said Van Sant.
By February of this year, Van Sant says he will be ready to resume his regular blood donations here locally.