A Chico State Student�s Subtle Act Saves a Life

Sep 27, 2013 11:50 AM

Information provided by the California State University, Chico

It only took a few seconds of her time, but two years ago Hilary Ingram’s simple generosity subsequently saved the life of a 5-year-old in Texas and brought Ingram the national attention she never expected.

The 2012 graduate of Chico State currently resides in Roseville and is a program director at the Firefighter’s Burn Institute in Sacramento. In November of Ingram’s senior year, her and her sisters of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority took part in a campus blood drive. While she was donating blood, she saw a sign asking participants to have their cheeks swabbed for saliva in order to find potential matches for bone marrow transplants. Although unaware of the implications, Ingram courageously submitted a swab sample before rushing off to class.

“I was completely naïve about bone marrow and the need for a registry,” Hilary said, “but I wanted to do it, and then ran to class.”

Two months later, she received an unexpected phone call informing her she was a potential match. After learning one of her sorority sisters had once been a potential match but didn’t work out, she found out the phone call was only the first step.

In the following weeks Ingram would have to fill out seemingly endless forms, draw more blood, and travel with her mother to Stanford Hospital for a physical. After the exam, the doctor entered the room with very important news. The doctor informed Ingram and her mother she was a match for a 5-year-old girl with preleukemia. The doctor indicated to her if she donated her marrow she would be able to save the child’s life.

“I didn’t think twice, I knew I wanted to do it,” Ingram said.

As Ingram made that fateful decision, a little girl named Stevye 1,400 miles away in Denton, Texas had yet to hear the news that would save her life. Stevye had potential bone marrow donors identified before, but none made the courageous decision to donate…that is until Ingram decided to undergo the transplant procedure.

At the beginning of the spring 2012 semester, Ingram returned to Stanford Hospital for surgery. While under general anesthetic for an hour, she had liquid marrow drawn from her pelvic bone. Although bone marrow transplants are uncomfortably painful, Ingram was back in class on Monday after a quick overnight stay at the hospital. Then came the hardest part; the waiting.

At this point Ingram was not yet allowed to know the name of her recipient. She sent a teddy bear to the little girl she spent most days praying and hoping for, wherever she was. Eventually after a few months Ingram learned the 5-year-old girl was doing OK and her body had not rejected Ingram’s bone marrow, but she still wasn’t allowed to know any more details.

While playing the waiting game Ingram became more involved in bone marrow registry. She would lead the Alpha Delta Pi sorority to host an event in May 2012 where over 140 people on campus submitted swab samples. Later that same month Ingram would graduate from Chico State and moved back to the Sacramento area to begin her post graduate life.

A year later…she would receive another unexpected phone call.

This time it was from Do Something.org, a large nonprofit which started the “Give a Spit About Cancer” campaign. The organization wanted Ingram to speak at their 20th anniversary gala in New York. At the Gala, Hilary reportedly received multiple ovations after telling the crowd her story...but the best had yet to come.

To Ingram’s surprise a big screen on the stage showed a healthy Stevye with her family thanking Ingram for her donation. After the crowd erupted in cheers, Ingram would learn she would be flown out to Texas to finally meet the young girl whose life she saved.

Last month Ingram arrived in Denton, Texas. Stevye was waiting for her with a bouquet of flowers and a big hug. The two went to Chuck E. Cheese and other hot-spots to get to know each other better.

“She was adorable, and the best part was to know that she’s fine – an energetic, healthy little girl,” Ingram said. “I loved seeing how healthy she is now.”

Last week, on the one-year anniversary of Good Morning America co-anchor Robin Roberts' successful bone marrow transplant, Glamour magazine published a story lauding Hilary as a hero and posted DoSomething.org’s video about her trip to Texas http://www.glamour.com/inspired/blogs/the-conversation/2013/09/happy-one-year-transplant-birt.html.

“I never thought any of this would happen,” Ingram said. “I honestly feel lucky to be a potential match, to give bone marrow, to help get the word out. Stevye is a little fighter – she’s the real hero.”


Most Popular