Face of Defense: Soldier Gives Gift of Life

FORT HOOD, Texas, June 15, 2011 — Army Spc. Christo­pher Sut­ton enjoys help­ing peo­ple. It’s some­thing that comes nat­u­ral­ly to him whether it’s at his job, in his free time or while vol­un­teer­ing.
In that spir­it of giv­ing, Sut­ton took part in a bone mar­row donor dri­ve while sta­tioned with the 89th Mil­i­tary Police Brigade about four years ago, and he was entered into the Defense Depart­ment bone mar­row donor data­base.

Army Spc. Christo­pher Sut­ton donates bone mar­row in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. Sut­ton dis­cov­ered he was a bone mar­row match just a few months ago and made a dona­tion in May. He elect­ed to enter the Defense Department’s bone mar­row donor data­base more than four years ago.
Cour­tesy pho­to
Click to enlarge

“Two months ago, they called me out of the blue,” Sut­ton said. “I just hap­pened to have the same number.” 

Now work­ing as a cadre mem­ber of the War­rior Tran­si­tion Brigade Head­quar­ters, Sut­ton was stunned when he was told he was a match to some­one who would ben­e­fit from a bone mar­row donation. 

A donor coor­di­na­tor from the C.W. Bill Young Depart­ment of Defense Mar­row Donor Cen­ter con­tact­ed Sut­ton to ask if he would donate blood to ver­i­fy a pos­i­tive match. 

“They said chances were slim that I could even be a match,” he said. But in a few short weeks, Sut­ton was con­tact­ed again with the offi­cial word. He was a match and his bone mar­row dona­tion could save a life. 

Sut­ton said he want­ed to help, but was con­cerned about the mar­row-extrac­tion process. “I was def­i­nite­ly think­ing they were going to shove a huge nee­dle in me and it was going to hurt,” he said. “I’ve heard that is one of the most-painful things ever.” 

Ulti­mate­ly, Sut­ton decid­ed the pain would be worth the pos­si­bil­i­ty of hav­ing a pos­i­tive impact on someone’s life. 

“I was try­ing to make excus­es at first, but after that I was just like, ‘OK it’s got to be done,’ ” he said. 

Although he was will­ing to donate, Sut­ton had work con­sid­er­a­tions as well. At the time of the coor­di­na­tion, the WTB was prepar­ing for a War­rior Tran­si­tion Com­mand Inspec­tor Gen­er­al inspec­tion. Sut­ton, who played a vital role in the inspec­tion prepa­ra­tion process, was reluc­tant to leave before the inspec­tion was over. 

“They had to have the dona­tion soon because [the recip­i­ent] was get­ting worse,” he said. “They wait­ed for the inspec­tion that we had, because I need­ed to be there for that, and they flew me out the day after the inspec­tion was over.” 

Although Sut­ton was expect­ing a painful bone mar­row extrac­tion process, he was able to donate through a less-inva­sive method. Instead of requir­ing surgery to har­vest bone mar­row from his hip, Sut­ton donat­ed periph­er­al blood stem cells. 

“Basi­cal­ly it’s five days of injec­tions of this med­i­cine called fil­gras­tim,” he explained. “It tells your body to pro­duce more stem cells. On the sixth day, you go in and they do the draw.” 

Sut­ton spent more than four hours donat­ing periph­er­al blood stem cells dur­ing the pro­ce­dure. He said he’d def­i­nite­ly donate again. Sut­ton is hum­ble when dis­cussing his donation. 

“I did­n’t think it was that big of a deal, but it was every­one else’s out­look on it,” he said. “Every­where I went, peo­ple said it was amaz­ing and it made me feel real­ly good.” Sol­diers who work with Sut­ton each day say they’re proud of him, but not sur­prised by his will­ing­ness to donate to some­one he does­n’t know. 

Army Capt. Rica Banks, the WTB’s per­son­nel offi­cer, and Army Chief War­rant Offi­cer 3 David Gar­cia, a brigade human resources tech­ni­cian, said that’s just the way Sut­ton is. Gar­cia also served as a source of infor­ma­tion for Sut­ton as the dona­tion process unfolded. 

“When we were in Hawaii a few years ago, my wife actu­al­ly got con­tact­ed [to be a bone mar­row donor],” Gar­cia said. “Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the lady passed away before all that could hap­pen. After that, she con­vinced me to become a donor. 

“You nev­er know when it’s going to be you, or some­one close to you,” he added. 

Banks agreed. 

“It’s a very easy thing to do,” Banks said, “but unless you’ve had a sit­u­a­tion where you’ve had to receive, you might not under­stand how impor­tant it is or how one sim­ple lit­tle thing can change the life of some­one else.” 

Sut­ton was hon­ored in front of the brigade for his dona­tion. “Every­one rec­og­nized what a big deal this is for him,” Banks said.

Sut­ton said it was an easy deci­sion to make. 

“I def­i­nite­ly rec­om­mend peo­ple get signed up, it’s great to help someone.” 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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