Student prepares for journey as bone marrow donor

Leitchfield senior Jayme Pharis poses for a portrait at her home in Bowling Green, Ky December 3, 2013. Pharis will participate in a bone marrow drive. 

Sam Osborne

When Jayme Pharis happened across a four-leaf clover on an October morning earlier this fall, she had a feeling a wave of good luck was coming her way.

Moments later, she got a phone call with life-changing implications.

Pharis, a Leitchfield senior, didn’t recognize the number but felt compelled to answer anyway.


The caller asked Pharis for her birthdate and if she remembered signing up for the bone marrow registry in April 2012.

“I thought she was going to ask me if I wanted to donate a dollar,” Pharis laughed.

But the news her unexpected caller was about to deliver was much deeper than a monetary contribution.

“She asked me if I was sitting down, and it still didn’t click,” Pharis said. “Then I sat down and she said, ‘Well, you’re a match for someone.’”

Pharis sunk into her couch, attempting to digest the information. Her A-positive blood was a perfect match for a person in need.

“I got hot, I started sweating a little bit,” she said. “I’ve just always known, Sam always told us over and over, it’s a miracle. Less than one percent of people get matched.”

Louisville senior Sam Kimura, a sister of Pharis’ in Alpha Delta Pi sorority, organized the bone marrow drive in April 2012 that Pharis participated in. The cause of bone marrow donation is one that is very important to Kimura, as she battles with aplastic anemia, an autoimmune disorder in which bone marrow fails to make enough blood cells. Kimura was thrilled when she heard the news.

“When I found out that Jayme was a match for somebody, I was overjoyed,” she said. “It is such a rare thing to get called as a match, and the fact that a friend in my own sorority was called was just amazing. I was excited for Jayme and her patient because, for both, it would be a life-changing experience.”

In the U.S., a person is diagnosed with blood cancer approximately every four minutes, and approximately every 10 minutes someone dies, according to

Pharis said she doesn’t know the identity of her match but does know she is a college-aged female, which also resonated with her.

“That was purely coincidence — they don’t match you by age or anything,” Pharis said. “It’s just purely who is your match. That hit home whenever she told me that. It made me think if I was in the reverse situation.”

Radcliff senior Meighan Shumate is one of Pharis’ best friends and has competed in pageants with her throughout college. Pharis said many friends were wary of her participation in the donation process because her final pageant ever, Miss Kentucky County Fair, looms in January.

“Jayme is not a selfish person,” she said. “Her first thought was not of the January pageant, it was of helping. This is certainly a burden, but a good burden — she is putting another’s needs well above her own.”

Kevin Pharis, Jayme’s father, said he was proud his daughter has the chance to make an impact.

“When we got the confirmation that she indeed was a match, I teared up when she told me,” he said. “Knowing a family would be getting news that I’m sure they had hoped and prayed for touched me the same as I think it would have if we had been the family seeking a donor.”

Kevin said he knows the donation will likely be painful but wholeheartedly supports his daughter and the life she can potentially save.

“I know there are risks and the process will be uncomfortable, but I feel it’s little compared to what the recipient has endured,” he said. “I support her physically and emotionally with all my heart in the process.”

At this point, Jayme said she is waiting for doctors to notify her if her match is well enough for a donation. When she receives the call, she said she will most likely travel to Washington, D.C. for the donation. The process involves receiving an IV in each arm or through four incisions in her pelvic bone.

Pharis said since receiving the news she is a match, it has consumed her thoughts on a daily basis. She said she welcomed the sense of purpose that being a bone marrow match gives her.

“It’s weird knowing someone needs me,“ Pharis said. “With the past year, I’ve had a tough time. I broke up with my boyfriend who I’d been with forever and I thought I was going to marry. I quit nursing school on a whim. I’m just a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and I knew as soon as I got that call that all that had led up to this.”