Student Gives the Gift of Life as Bone Marrow Donor

Thursday, April 04, 2024
Grant Giles

Computer science and software engineering student Grant Giles made a bone marrow donation earlier this year from through the Gift of Life Marrow Registry to help a 1-year-old child suffering from leukemia.

Over the course of his fast-paced years as a Rose-Hulman student, Grant Giles had given little interest to the many information tables from student organizations, corporate recruiters, and public interest groups that he passed on his way toward grabbing a quick lunch or dinner with classmates in the Mussallem Student Union. 

However, for reasons that even the computer science and software engineering senior can’t explain, a booth with a volunteer from the Gift of Life Marrow Registry caught his attention during a campus visit last spring. A simple swap inside his cheek started a check-in process for the national registry and a possible match among blood cancer patients.

Nearly a year later, Giles was in an operating room of MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C., providing a potentially life-saving bone marrow donation to a 1-year-old child suffering from leukemia. 

“I wanted to save someone else,” Giles said while reflecting on the random act of kindness and sincerity. “I felt that the recipient would benefit far more than the pain that I would go through (extracting marrow from the upper hip bone). A little pain for me could save someone’s life. It was well worth it, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.”

Giles admits that his donation was “out of my league” as he had been concentrating on his college coursework and earning valuable work experiences in software development through summer internships.

“I knew that Rose-Hulman would be a challenge (academically) that I needed to give my full attention to tackling. Now, as college is winding down and Commencement is on the horizon, I started to think about giving back and catching up on opportunities to serve others,” said the St. Louis native.

The nonprofit Gift of Life Marrow Registry identifies donor-and-patient matches through immune system factors called Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA). The more closely the HLA is matched, the more likely a transplant will be successful. Approximately 70% percent of donors are strangers found on the registry and 10% of donations are marrow, usually for children suffering from leukemia and other blood cancers.

“After a lot of research, I found that bone marrow donation was safe and I was at the prime age to participate (more than 85% of transplants are from donors aged 18 to 35 years old),” remarked Giles.

Approximately 20,000 Americans need a marrow transplant each year, according to the Gift of Life Marrow Registry. 

Now in his last academic quarter, Giles is preparing to work as a software engineer with United Launch Alliance, an aerospace manufacturer, defense contractor and launch service provider near Denver. An internship last summer made him familiar with the company and its corporate culture.

“I’m looking forward to getting to use my skills to help launch new projects for the company,” he said. “Rose-Hulman and its demanding faculty have prepared me well for this next step. I have loved engineering and problem-solving since high school. I couldn’t have found a better place (than Rose-Hulman) to push me to become a better engineer.”