The inspiring story of how a chance meeting gave USAHS Austin student, Brennan McQuiston, the opportunity to donate and save a life
Austin, TX – August 23, 2017 – The University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS), a leading graduate institution that emphasizes health and rehabilitative sciences education through innovative classroom education, provides students, faculty and employees alike opportunities to volunteer and make a positive impact on the communities where our university community lives, learns and works.
The most important moments happen unexpectedly. Fate. Karma. Serendipity. A single instance can change the course of a life, or, in the case of Brennan McQuiston, more than one life.
McQuiston is a physical therapy student at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences Austin campus. In September 2016, McQuiston was at a university sponsored community outreach meeting where a representative from Be the Match Registry spoke.
The Be the Match Registry is part of the National Marrow Donor Program and works to connect cancer patients seeking a cure with potential bone marrow donors.
Despite knowing the odds were extremely small that he – or any of the other students at the meeting – would be a match, McQuiston signed up. He filled out the paperwork, took a cheek swab for DNA, and added his name to the registry.
Like many of his fellow students, McQuiston was drawn to physical therapy because he wanted to help other people overcome their challenges and limitations. Physical therapists engage with patients, sometimes over an extended period of time, to recover from trauma, to mitigate physical limitations, and to generally improve their physical health. These relationships — although professional — can form into close bonds as therapists are challenged, motivated, and inspired by their patients. It’s not for everyone but many of those who are drawn to it are empathetic, other-focused people. Joining the registry was another way for McQuiston to give back.
“I thought back to why I wanted to be a physical therapist: I wanted to help people,” said McQuiston. “As a student, I have limited contact with patients. This provided an opportunity to – in the words of our physical therapy vision statement – improve the human experience.”
Months passed and McQuiston forgot about the registry, until this past April.
“Toward the end of last trimester, I was contacted by Be The Match saying that I was a potential match for a cancer patient. I was also told that my chances of being a match for this individual were still very slim, but they wanted me to provide a blood sample to test if I was compatible.”
A month after giving his blood sample, McQuiston received confirmation that he was a positive match.
“When I was initially told all that was required of me I considered backing out because it seemed overwhelming, but I thought ‘What if the roles were reversed and I was the one who needed a donor, how would I feel?’”
McQuiston moved ahead and was next subjected to a battery of medical procedures: more blood tests, an EKG, a chest x-ray, and injections of filgrastim, a drug that stimulates bone marrow to produce more peripheral blood stem cells (PBSCs).
After receiving four consecutive injections, McQuiston – who is from Austin, Texas – flew to San Antonio where he received a final filgrastim injection. He then donated through a process, similar to dialysis, which filtered his blood and removed the life-saving PBSCs.
“I remember sitting as I was donating and thinking: This is crazy, I don’t even know this person. Then I thought about all the people this would impact. Not only a person fighting cancer but his family, friends, and all the people who loved him. I was overwhelmed thinking how this little act could give him many more years with his parents, his spouse, children, grandchildren, and friends. I couldn’t turn away from that. I’m glad I didn’t.”
For more information on USAHS, visit usa.edu.
About University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS)
The University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS) is a graduate institution that offers degree programs in physical therapy, occupational therapy, nursing, education and health science, as well as continuing education programs. Founded in 1979, USAHS has locations in San Marcos, California; St. Augustine, Florida; Austin, Texas; and Miami, Florida. USAHS is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission. USAHS is one of more than 70 institutions in 25 countries that comprise the Laureate International Universities network. For more information about USAHS visit www.usa.edu.