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Lobos' Hoops Standout Rockland Owens Makes Off-Court Assist
June 17, 2005

By Nancy Blanton, Sul Ross State University News Writer

Former Sul Ross State University basketball standout Rockland Owens made his reputation on the court with his unselfish play. But his most recent assist may bear far more impact than any game he played.

Rockland Owens

Owens (Wharton, Texas) helped his teammates win three consecutive American Southwest Conference West Division titles and the 2004 ASC title. Now he is helping his fellow man as a bone marrow donor.

He was recently summoned to Fort Worth to be a donor for a 19 year-old female leukemia patient.

"They didn't tell me any more about her than that," he added. "I was happy to be able to do something like this for someone, and it wasn't bad at all."

Owens was prepared to be donor in April when a second, closer match to the patient was found, but after about three weeks, doctors determined the first transfer was unsuccessful. That's when Owens' sister contacted him to tell him he was needed in Fort Worth. The Carter Blood Center of Fort Worth arranged for his travel and expenses while he was there.

"It doesn't surprise me that Rockland would make the sacrifice of himself for health of another person," Sul Ross State basketball coach Doug Davalos commented. "One special thing about him is his giving nature. As a basketball player he always thought more of the team than himself and was always willing to do what needed to be done.
"He walks the same walk on and off the basketball court."

Owens said there was no major pain or discomfort involved, that this type of procedure was no more invasive than a blood donation. After a complete physical and boosting his blood calcium levels prior to the procedure, Owens sat comfortably in a recliner watching movies for the three hours required to collect the peripheral blood stem cells.

"This is something I would encourage more people to do. It's a good thing and it's not a lot of pain or trouble. They don't have to always take the marrow cells for transplant. In this case, it was the peripheral blood stem cells, primarily the white cells."

Blood marrow transplant technology has changed significantly due to genetic research and stem cell research. Blood chemistry tests detect matching donors via genetic and protein markers found in the blood marrow and white blood cells. The task of matching possible candidates for transplants comes through computer technology. Often the first candidate is a relative of the patient, but back-up donors, found through more precise matching play an important role, in case the first transplant does not produce new bone marrow.

Benefits for the patient indicate that peripheral blood stem cell transplants have resulted in better survival rates, due to faster engraftment and fewer infections after transplant. Owens will know in a few weeks if the transplant was effective.

"It all began five or six years ago," Owens said. "I donated blood and signed up to be a bone marrow donor. I didn't think much of it, at the time. It just seemed part of donating blood, but I'm glad they called me. I hope more people will think seriously about doing it."

According to the University of Texas, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, website, they do over 600 bone marrow transplants annually for adults and children. This is in one treatment center, for at least one transplant a day, where one donor is needed.

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