A Call to Serve: Meet Bone Marrow Donor Nick Martinez

May 10, 2018 | by Letisia Marquez

Nick Martinez | City of Hope Bone marrow donor Nick Martinez
Nick Martinez wants to become a physical therapist so he can help people who have been injured — or lost mobility due to disease — move again.
But today, at City of Hope’s 42nd Annual Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion, he realized that he has already given a 15-year-old cancer survivor the ability to walk again — and a second chance at life.
Arturo Martinez (no relation) was only 11 years old when he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He was in so much pain that he could no longer walk and started using a wheelchair in November 2011. He would continue using the chair on and off during the rest of his treatment.
Arturo underwent chemotherapy but his cancer didn't go into remission. In February of 2015, he and his family came to City of Hope. Arturo needed a bone marrow transplant to survive.

A Call to Action

Martinez was serving as a tennis coach in the Bay Area when he received a phone call from a bone marrow registry. There was an 11-year-old boy with acute lymphoblastic leukemia who needed Nick’s bone marrow. The organization wanted to know if he could donate, and didn’t hesitate.
Like many other donors who join a bone marrow registry, Martinez didn’t think he would be called upon to donate. He had signed up to be donor as an undergraduate student at California State University San Jose. His friend had a relative who had died of leukemia, and she encouraged him to attend a bone marrow drive on campus with her. They both signed up for the registry.
Martinez says he felt immensely proud letting his students know that his bone marrow donation would help a child.
“It was a great opportunity to help someone, and I just couldn’t pass it up,” the 30-year-old added. “I would want someone to do that for me so I was happy to do that for him.”
Since Martinezk was donating to a pediatric patient, he underwent a surgical procedure requiring anesthesia. Using needles, a doctor took liquid marrow, which contains blood-forming cells, from the back of his pelvic bone. The collection took several hours, and although he was never in pain, Martinez took it easy for a week after the procedure. 

Culture of Sacrifice

The desire to help others was engrained in Martinez from the time he was a young boy. He grew up Christian and said he has always believed “that you sacrifice your time and your money or whatever you can to help others.”
His desire to help people is deeply woven into the fabric of who he is.

“I’ve always been an athlete — it’s always been such a huge part of my life,” said Martinez, an avid tennis and baseball player. “I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose your ability to move. Through physical therapy, I’m interested in figuring out what’s going on with a person’s body and fixing any kind of impairment.
“That’s an exciting aspect to being a physical therapist — you get to help people move again,” he added. “It provides so much joy and fulfillment, being able to do that.”
Arturo, his family and his doctor are extremely grateful for Martinez’s act of kindness.
“I think it is very fitting — and maybe even fate — that his donor, Nick, is getting his doctorate in physical therapy,” Nicole A. Karras, M.D., City of Hope assistant clinical professor of pediatrics, told an audience of more than 100 doctors, nurses, family and friends gathered at the Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion to watch Arturo meet Martinez. “I say this because after his transplant, Arturo struggled with getting up and moving. First, because of the fatigue from transplant, and later from chronic graft-versus-host disease and its complications.
“But Arturo showed great perseverance, and he did the physical therapy and took his medications,” she added. “For this I credit, him, his family and even his donor for kicking that wheelchair.”

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