Student-athlete fulfills commitment to donate

September 18, 2019

Preston Varozza’s journey of donating marrow began before he was born.

In 1989, his mother, Gwyn, signed up for the marrow donor registry in support of a leukemia patient in San Jose, California. Gwyn had hoped to be a match for someone ever since, and she encouraged her children to support the registry in other ways.

Kyle Varozza, Preston’s younger brother, answered the call when he dedicated his Eagle Scout project to educating and registering people on the Be The Match Registry. Preston joined the registry in support of his brother’s project, not expecting that he would be a match.

The call came in November 2017. Preston, now a member of the swimming team at the University of Texas at Austin, was a match for a patient with myelodysplastic syndrome, a bone marrow disorder that leads to a low amount of healthy red blood cells. He was contacted by GenCure, a subsidiary of BioBridge Global and a local Be The Match® affiliate, about making a peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donation.

“When I got that call, it was a huge surprise,” he said. “I realized that meeting this commitment would mean sitting out of swim practice for several weeks.”

Saying yes to saving a life was an easy choice, and his coaches and family wholeheartedly supported his decision.

“I was excited to be a part of this,” he said, “that I could save someone else’s life.”

After months of learning about and preparing for the process, Preston donated in spring 2018 at the GenCure Cellular Therapy Donor Room in San Antonio.

Gwyn is proud of her son’s decision.

“This is something I always wanted to do,” she said. “And to be able to give somebody that hope, you can’t put a price tag on it. You can’t look at it as an inconvenience or something you just don’t have time to do.”

Knowing how difficult it is for many patients to find a match, Gwyn wants to dispel concerns from parents about the donation process.

“What made me sad is knowing that there are people who choose not to do it because of fear, or parental fear,” she said. “That just breaks my heart because there’s power in knowledge.”