W&J senior makes life-saving sacrifice with bone marrow donation

Created: August 30, 2017
Last Updated: January 14, 2020

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WASHINGTON, PA (Aug. 30, 2017) – This wasn’t a typical summer for Mike Mazza ’18.

The Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) senior is a registered bone marrow donor with The Andy Talley Bone Marrow Foundation, and the organization called to say they’d found a potential match in need of a transplant: an 18-year-old boy in Massachusetts.

“I felt really blessed and knew that I wanted to help,” said Mazza, a financial economics major. “Once I had the goal of helping that kid, I kind of blocked everything else out. You just know this is for a better purpose, and you don’t even let the second thoughts come in.”

He went in for his first blood test in June. After a few more blood tests, Mazza was a confirmed match, and he went in for surgery on Aug. 2.

Going into the surgery, Mazza felt calm about his decision, even though it meant making a personal sacrifice. Because of the recovery time, he’s opted out of playing football his senior season and will instead serve as a student coach, working with up-and-coming players in his former position as defensive back.

“I just said, ‘It’s for a better cause.’ I mean, football is great, but there’s definitely things beyond that, and Coach (Mike Sirianni) always preaches that,” Mazza said.

Sirianni is proud of Mazza and his team for their willingness to donate.

“We encourage our players to try and be a match. I know Andy Talley (former head coach at Villanova), but more importantly this is a way our players can save a life,” he said. “We have won a lot of games, captured many championship, and produced numerous All-Americans on the field. I have never been more proud as a coach as I am of Mike Mazza. What he did far more exceeds our wins, championships, and awards.”

According to Sirianni, close to 200 current and former W&J football players from the past three years are registered as donors. Mazza said many of his teammates are on the registry for bone marrow donations, but he is the first player that he knows of who has been called to donate. He encourages other players to answer the call if they get it.

“Definitely do it,” he said. “I don’t think you could do anything better in life than to help someone in need, especially someone with cancer. If it’s a young kid, we’re at that age where we’ve gotten to experience the things they haven’t yet. Seeing that 18-year-old kid is about to be where I was four years ago helped my decision.”

The Andy Talley Foundation keeps recipients anonymous, but gives them the choice to meet their donor within a year of the transfusion. Mazza feels that meeting is likely, and hopes to come face to face with the boy he’s helping and learn more about him.

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.

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