ROWING Although he’s not great with blood, Rob Murphy gave a sample last week to join the bone marrow register.
AN EVENTFUL LIFE?Top rower turned international cyclist, Paul Giblin, is appealing for a bone marrow donor.
Have you heard about Paul Giblin’s story?
THE friendly nurse was just worried about me on Thursday evening as she darted across a room packed full of blood donors.
“Get this man some 7Up” she cried, while I followed her whispering in earnest, “I’m absolutely, totally fine.”
She was non-plussed: “This man here needs some 7Up and a seat.” The room’s attention was now firmly on me, as I hung my unusually pale face in shame.
Even those lying on trolleys in midst of their donations were raising their heads by the time I caught up. I’m not the best with blood, not as bad as my nurse would suggest, but not great all the same.
Why was I there? Well, I was giving a blood sample to join the bone marrow register. A call to arms from friends of a friend had jolted this queasy individual into action.
There’s a very good chance you’re familiar with Paul Giblin’s story and the #marrowmatch campaign which has gathered momentum at a phenomenal pace in the space of a couple of weeks.
The 17-time Irish rowing champion and hugely talented athlete is facing down Hodgkins Lymphoma for a third time in two years and each time his resolve is tested that bit more.
The bone marrow register can save lives; the procedure involved in donating varies but, at worst, it can mean a two-week break from work while, at best, it can hold you over for a mere five days, including a couple of nights in hospital.
In return you can play a direct role in saving a life, you can be the cure for a person’s cancer. The register needs more volunteers.
Paul’s is a complex story but, in summary, he is now proceeding with what is called a ‘mismatched stem cell transplant’ because he hasn’t found that perfect match on the world register.
He has thrown his weight behind his friends’ campaign in the hope of raising awareness.
“My friend set up the campaign hoping to kick off this whole idea to get more people signed up for the bone marrow registry, but from the outset it’s important to point out that this is not for me, it’s a worldwide cause,” he told us.
Paul got married last week. It has been an incredibly challenging two years for the 31-year-old former Army Officer but life has continued and he and his new wife Cate are currently on their honeymoon. The next transplant starts in January.
While rowing has brought the majority of his sporting success, including a medal at the World Student games, more recently he took up cycling, competing as an amateur in the An Post Rás around Ireland.
I remember heading out to Oughterard two years ago to catch him finishing one of the stages on what is the most gruelling test for amateur cyclists in Ireland. He confounded team-mates with how well he did in the event.
His years of intensive training for rowing had prepared him for the seemingly limitless pain on a week-long stage race. It has prepared him well for this battle too.
This story is a fine example of why amateur sport is becoming more and more appealing to sports writers and enthusiasts, and why I have focused a large portion of my career trying to figure out a way of bringing more stories like this to sports pages — online and offline.
The stories that emerge from every corner of every dressing room are vast, compelling, and often inspirational.
Round three of this journey will feel like the final mountain on the Rás, but Paul is not about to let that knock his determination
“The mortality rate with the transplant is about 30-40 percent. You’re either going to win big, or lose big, it’s like going ‘all-in’ in a game of poker. It’ll go one way or the other.”
I look forward to sharing a glass of 7Up with him when he’s done and hope I’m one of those lucky enough to match up with some patient on the register someday soon