Student searches for donor

Ashlee Clark

Lisa Leachman knew her son Philip Schardein had many friends.

But when Schardein, 24, discovered two weeks ago that he needed another bone marrow transplant to help battle his acute myelogenous leukemia, a form of cancer, Leachman saw how they could help. Family and friends are holding a screening from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. today at First Baptist Church that will help Schardein find a bone marrow donor for a transplant.

A bone marrow transplant will replace old bone marrow – the blood-producing cells inside the bone – that is producing the sick cells.

Leachman said she was overwhelmed by the number of people willing to help organize a screening for Schardein, a Bowling Green native who graduated from the University of Kentucky in 2002.

“We’re just so fortunate to be a part of that and have so many people that are willing to help,” Leachman said.

The screening could also help Bowling Green native Naomi Sinclair, who is also seeking a bone marrow donor, said Lou Beckner, a family friend of Schardein and one of the screening’s organizers.

At the screening, potential donors will complete a medical form and have two to three tablespoons of blood drawn, Beckner said. She hopes each screening won’t last more than 30 to 40 minutes.

Those who are screened can also agree to be registered on the national donor list, which gives them the potential to help others like Schardein.

Schardein was first diagnosed with cancer on May 1, Beckner said. He received a bone marrow transplant July 2 from his sister Chappell, but it failed because his sister’s cells may have been too similar to his own.

Dr. Allen Redden, a physician at Student Health Services, said a rejection could occur because cells don’t have similar enough antigens – chemicals on the surface of cells that make the cells unique. He said that the more similar a donor’s antigens are to the recipient, the less likely a donor’s cells will be rejected.

Dr. Pat Blewett, another physician at Student Health Services, said that Schardein may have been too sick for his body to build more bone marrow.

The blood drawn from each person at today’s screening will be sent to an outside lab and screened for antigens, Blewett said.

Schardein has just finished his first round of chemotherapy at M.D. Anderson Cancer Research Hospital in Houston. If Schardein goes into remission, after three weeks he will be eligible to get a bone marrow transplant, Beckner said.

Leachman said if a potential donor is found, the person would receive injections to separate stem cells from the blood. About a pint of blood would be removed, the stem cells would be extracted and the blood put back into the donor.

The stem cells would be given to Schardein through an IV, Leachman said.

“He is dealing with it very well,” Leachman said. “He has an extremely amazing positive attitude. He feels good, he looks good. You would never know he had something wrong with him.”

Beckner said that there has been a “great outpouring of community support” for the screening. So far, 150 volunteers have signed up to work the event and local stores are donating food.

“We just want everybody to turn out so we can find Philip a match,” Beckner said.

Darrin Horn, head coach of the men’s basketball team, said he, his staff and some of his team members will be taking part in the screening.

“I think it’s important that we all understand that there are things that are a lot more important than basketball,” Horn said.

At Schardein’s alma mater, where he was co-captain of the golf team, the athletics department is also organizing a drive this week.

Leachman said Schardein wants to help others in his situation when he is better, but she hopes that someone will be able to help him.

“What I’m looking forward to is him being cured,” she said. “That would be the greatest blessing I’ve ever received.”

Reach Ashlee Clark at [email protected].