STEPHENVILLE (April 1, 2016) – Junior Cameron Cook received one of the greatest honors a Tarleton student can achieve on March 16 – a core values coin – for selflessly donating stem cells to a stranger on Valentine’s Day weekend.
“Nothing is more worthy than knowing that you helped someone else, and this help is not just opening the door for someone, but saving their life,” Cook said.
Cook received his coin from Dean Kelli Styron and TSU president Dominic Dottavio in one of his Wednesday classes.
“It was a surprise to me,” Cook said. “I walked in and Dominic Dottavio and Dr. Styron were standing down in the front of everybody, and they told me to come down there. I thought I was in trouble at first. But, once I got down there and found out it was the core values coin, it was pretty cool that I got that award.”
Tarleton awards students with core values coins who demonstrate the core values, which are tradition, service, leadership, integrity, civility and excellence.
Cook began his journey toward stem cell donation as a junior in high school when he signed up to be in the registry. One of the main reasons Cook decided to sign up was due to an emergency he experienced with his older brother Landon Cook a year or two before.
“[My brother is] special needs, and 2012 Christmas Eve night, we had to take him to the hospital because he had a stomach ulcer,” Cook said. “He lost eight units of blood. He had to do eight different blood transfusions, and he has O- blood, so it’s not an easy type of blood to get. Blood donors that donated their O- blood saved my brother. So, it’s kind of like giving back like those who helped saved my brother.”
In addition to gratitude for his brother’s blood donors, Cook loves helping people. He said he was lucky to have the opportunity to grow up in a family that “loves giving people happiness or doing things that will help people out.”
“It’s just in my nature I guess,” Cook said.
Cook received the first call in October about being a possible match for a male patient with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. After discovering that he was not only a match, but the “perfect” match for the patient, “it went really fast from there.”
He drove to San Antonio for a physical examination, and then received filgrastim injections that increase the number of the number of blood stem cells, according to the Be the Match website, for five days leading up to the donation procedure.
“It gave me flu like symptoms and my bones were achy,” Cook said.
The procedure itself lasted about seven hours from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. According to the Be the Match website, “your blood is removed through a needle in one arm and passed through a machine that will collect only the blood-forming cells. The remaining blood is returned to you through a needle in the other arm.”
“The procedure, as a whole, was tiring,” Cook said. “They hooked up my arms to a big machine. That was a little bit like “Okay, let’s hurry this up!” because I was sitting there and feeling lightheaded. But it was worth it.”
Today, Cook’s life continues as it did before his procedure. He works as a multimedia journalist for the Texan News service, as a part-time photojournalist for The Flash Today, is a part of Phi Kappa Sigma and plays in the worship band at Timber Ridge church.
“That’s pretty awesome,” Cook said. “Knowing that I could be that hand of help for the family on the other side, because I feel like it would just be so scary having to wait for someone to say, “I want to help.””