Face of Defense: Soldier Gives Gift of Life
By Rachel Parks
III Corps and Fort Hood Public Affairs
FORT HOOD, Texas, Jun. 15, 2011 Army Spc. Christopher Sutton enjoys helping people. It’s something that comes naturally to him whether it’s at his job, in his free time or while volunteering.
Army Spc. Christopher Sutton donates bone marrow in Washington, D.C. Sutton discovered he was a bone marrow match just a few months ago and made a donation in May. He elected to enter the Defense Department’s bone marrow donor database more than four years ago. Courtesy photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
In that spirit of giving, Sutton took part in a bone marrow donor drive while stationed with the 89th Military Police Brigade about four years ago, and he was entered into the Defense Department bone marrow donor database.
“Two months ago, they called me out of the blue,” Sutton said. “I just happened to have the same number.”
Now working as a cadre member of the Warrior Transition Brigade Headquarters, Sutton was stunned when he was told he was a match to someone who would benefit from a bone marrow donation.
A donor coordinator from the C.W. Bill Young Department of Defense Marrow Donor Center contacted Sutton to ask if he would donate blood to verify a positive match.
“They said chances were slim that I could even be a match,” he said. But in a few short weeks, Sutton was contacted again with the official word. He was a match and his bone marrow donation could save a life.
Sutton said he wanted to help, but was concerned about the marrow-extraction process. “I was definitely thinking they were going to shove a huge needle in me and it was going to hurt,” he said. “I’ve heard that is one of the most-painful things ever.”
Ultimately, Sutton decided the pain would be worth the possibility of having a positive impact on someone’s life.
“I was trying to make excuses at first, but after that I was just like, ‘OK it’s got to be done,’” he said.
Although he was willing to donate, Sutton had work considerations as well. At the time of the coordination, the WTB was preparing for a Warrior Transition Command Inspector General inspection. Sutton, who played a vital role in the inspection preparation process, was reluctant to leave before the inspection was over.
“They had to have the donation soon because [the recipient] was getting worse,” he said. “They waited for the inspection that we had, because I needed to be there for that, and they flew me out the day after the inspection was over.”
Although Sutton was expecting a painful bone marrow extraction process, he was able to donate through a less-invasive method. Instead of requiring surgery to harvest bone marrow from his hip, Sutton donated peripheral blood stem cells.
“Basically it’s five days of injections of this medicine called filgrastim,” he explained. “It tells your body to produce more stem cells. On the sixth day, you go in and they do the draw.”
Sutton spent more than four hours donating peripheral blood stem cells during the procedure. He said he’d definitely donate again.
Sutton is humble when discussing his donation.
“I didn’t think it was that big of a deal, but it was everyone else’s outlook on it,” he said. “Everywhere I went, people said it was amazing and it made me feel really good.”
Soldiers who work with Sutton each day say they’re proud of him, but not surprised by his willingness to donate to someone he doesn’t know.
Army Capt. Rica Banks, the WTB’s personnel officer, and Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 David Garcia, a brigade human resources technician, said that’s just the way Sutton is.
Garcia also served as a source of information for Sutton as the donation process unfolded.
“When we were in Hawaii a few years ago, my wife actually got contacted [to be a bone marrow donor],” Garcia said. “Unfortunately, the lady passed away before all that could happen. After that, she convinced me to become a donor.
“You never know when it’s going to be you, or someone close to you,” he added.
“It’s a very easy thing to do,” Banks said, “but unless you’ve had a situation where you’ve had to receive, you might not understand how important it is or how one simple little thing can change the life of someone else.”
Sutton was honored in front of the brigade for his donation. “Everyone recognized what a big deal this is for him,” Banks said.
Sutton said it was an easy decision to make.
“I definitely recommend people get signed up, it’s great to help someone.”