Tuesday, January 12, 2010

An Inspiration to Us All

This is the story of a remarkable person.

My daughter’s best friend at Yale Law School was a guy named Seun Adebiyi. Seun (pronounced so that it sounds pretty much like “Sean”) was born in Nigeria, but came to the States as a child. A competitive swimmer, he represented Nigeria in international competitions for years and only just missed qualifying for the 2004 Olympic summer games by a fraction of a second (although he doesn’t say why on his blog, it’s because he was still recovering from something nasty, like a broken back). He’s one of those people with boundless energy and endless talents. He has a pilot’s license. He is a certified massage therapists who likes nothing better than giving his friends massages. He sky dives (okay, I’ll admit I’d have been happier if he hadn’t introduced my daughter to that particular passion). He campaigned hard for Barack Obama. He is inspiringly dedicated to his yoga and meditation practices.


After graduating from Yale Law, he took a job on Wall Street, started training to swim the English Channel, and embarked on a new ambition: to make history as the first Nigerian delegate to compete in the Winter Olympics. His sport: the skeleton. As Seun describes it, “First imagine the luge. Now flip over onto your stomach, and put your hands by your side. With no brakes and minimal steering, you careen precipitously down a bobsled track at nearly 80 mph. Headfirst.”

And then, out of nowhere, came the unbelievable, heart-stopping news: Seun discovered he has both stem cell leukemia and lymphoblastic lymphoma. His only hope for survival is to find a donor for a bone marrow transplant. But here’s the problem: very, very few African-Americans are enrolled in the national bone marrow registry. As a result, 83% of African-American patients like Seun never receive a transplant. Seun’s situation is made worse by the fact that he isn’t your typical African-American: he’s 100% Nigerian.

Of course, with a guy like Seun, what comes next isn’t much of a surprise. Seun has launched a massive drive to recruit 10,000 new potential donors to the national registry, with a special emphasis on encouraging African-American donors. All it takes to register is a cheek swab. Of course, if you’re found to be a match, you need to be committed to the donation process, which can be done in one of two ways. Both are outpatient procedures and neither is especially grueling. You can learn more about becoming a donor or register online at skmsamericas.org.

To learn more about Seun, watch his video…


See the support he's receiving from people like Justin Chambers and Rihanna here. You can also read his article at the Huffington Post, and follow his inspiring story on his blog, Seun's Skeleton Blog.

And please, consider signing up for the national Marrow Donor Program. As Seun says, “in 2014, when I am racing down the Olympic slopes in Sochi, Russia, you can say you helped me make it to the finish line.”



Charles Gramlich said...

Wow! Man you have to shake your head at fate to pick someone like this to give lymphoma too. But all good thoughts to him, for his struggle, and for all he is doing now to get more donars registered. I hope there is a positive turn to the story.

Susan/DC said...

I'm already on the donor registry and have been for years. In all that time I've only been called once, and then they found a better match so I've never actually donated. I mention this only so that people who hesitate because they're worried they'll be called on constantly will know that the likelihood they will ever be called is slim. But if you are, how wonderful to know that you've done something to give hope to another.

I work with two people originally from Nigeria, so I will tell them about Seun.

orannia said...

The amount of positive energy that came through the story, in spite of everything Seun is going through, is amazing. I sincerely hope a donor is found. I've only just started donating blood, but have been thinking about adding my name to the bone marrow donor registry (I'm already listed on the organ donor registry). Something to go, not think about!

cs harris said...

Charles, that was my reaction. Someone with so much to give to this world. If you read his blog, you realize just how amazing he is.

Susan, I have to admit I didn't even know there was a donor registry. Contacting your friends from Nigeria would be wonderful.

Orannia, it isn't nearly the procedure I'd always assumed it was.

Steve Malley said...

Jeez, and I thought I stayed busy-- Seun's awesome! Totally my hero at the mo', and I reckon I probably should go register...

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Lainey said...

Candy - lovely daughter! She radiates personality.

Seun has accomplished so much already. This new setback may delay him, but not for long. I wish him all the best.

Rick said...

What an amazing man and an amazing story. My money is on him and my heartfelt prayers, too.

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liz fenwick said...

Big lump in the throat - what an amazing man. I had no idea there was any such registry thank you.

I will keep him in my thoughts and prayers.

cs harris said...

Steve, the man puts me to shame.

Lainey, thank you! I could sing my girls' praises all day.

Rick, if anyone can beat this, it's Seun.

Liz, I knew nothing about any of this until Seun.

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