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Airman answers call to save life via marrow donation

  • Published
  • By Joe N. Wiggins
  • 311th Air Base Group Public Affairs
When most Airmen come into the Air Force, they know their service could include being called upon to do something that could save a life. However, one such Airman answered the call in a way that very few could.

Staff Sgt. Charles Newberry, a personnel specialist assigned to the 311th Air Base Group's Military Personnel Flight, volunteered in 2007 to register as a bone marrow donor. That decision recently saved the life of a military member's 2-year-old dependent.

While he doesn't know the name of the recipient, Sergeant Newberry will always know the decision he made before his recipient was even born made all the difference in the life of that young child.

"While I don't know his name, as soon as I heard who it was, and that he has a rare condition called aplastic anemia, I thought, 'Yeah, I'll gladly do what I can to help out the little guy,'" said Sergeant Newberry.

Aplastic anemia is a disease that causes bone marrow in the patient to not produce enough red and white blood cells or blood platelets. According to the Mayo Clinic, a bone marrow transplant can be the best and sometimes only effective treatment in severe cases.

When he became aware of what his donation could mean, Sergeant Newberry was eager to volunteer.

"I was surprised when I found out I was a match, but helping someone else's child was clearly something I wanted to do," he said. "My wife and mom were a little skeptical about the operation, but I think my enthusiasm won them over, and they were both supportive of my being a donor."

While Sergeant Newberry's enthusiasm to be a donor was crucial, his organization and supervisor were also behind his decision.

"I thought his volunteering was very admirable, and a great thing to be willing to do," said Capt. Troy Lane, commander of the 311 ABG MPF. "I was impressed with his excitement to do it."

While explaining the procedure, Sergeant Newberry was quick to point out it wasn't very painful or lengthy.

"The surgeons removed the marrow from my lower back after the first day of tests and screening at the hospital in Georgetown," he explained. "I was up and walking around the next day and only had to wear some small bandages for about a week."

In addition to his family supporting him, Sergeant Newberry also pointed out the military community was very supportive.

"In addition to being given time off from my duty location, DOD sponsored my flight and expenses. I went through a process of questions and phone interviews before leaving for the trip. But once everything was approved, there was no cost involved for me or my family."

Sergeant Newberry is now one of only about 500 service members that are matched to a patient and donate bone marrow each year. About 600,000 service members have registered as marrow donors as part of the C.W. Bill Young Department of Defense Marrow Donor Program.

Volunteers like Sergeant Newberry are critical for many patients awaiting a match. According to the National Marrow Donor Program, about 70 percent of those needing a transplant do not have a matching donor in their family. Usually used to fight leukemia and lymphoma, often a bone marrow donation is a last chance at beating a potentially fatal disease.

More than 10,000 patients each year are diagnosed with these life-threatening diseases. A patient's doctor can contact the program's database of 8 million potential donors in the U.S., and another 5 million potential donors in international registries.

The C.W. Bill Young Department of Defense Marrow Donor Center is located in Rockville, Md., and is charged with supporting DOD bone marrow volunteers. It is one of 79 donor centers that work with the National Marrow Donor Program.

Established by Congress in 1990, the DoD program is open to any military member or civilian and their dependents, Coast Guard, National Guard and Reservists in good health between the ages of 18 and 60.

Interested volunteers can get more information at one of the following Web sites: and