Texas 4000 rider comes through for leukemia patient

UT Austin student’s personal journey leads to potentially lifesaving stem cell transplant
April 26, 2019

In an effort to find cures for patients with blood cancers like leukemia, Texas 4000 is hosting a marrow registry drive at the University of Texas at Austin April 29- May 1 at the Speedway Mall and West Mall Office Building.

The drive, held in partnership with Be The Match, Texas 4000, and GenCure, a subsidiary of San Antonio nonprofit BioBridge Global, raises awareness about becoming a potential marrow and stem cell donor. 

A member of the Texas 4000 student organization – which raises awareness for the fight against cancer via multiple events, culminated by a 4,500-mile bicycle challenge – got a chance to make a difference two years ago as a stem cell donor.

Austin Scheibmeir, who is double majoring in neuroscience and government, joined Texas 4000 in 2016. After a year of training and fundraising, he rode more than 4,500 miles from Austin, TX to Anchorage, AK.

“For the longest time, you think there’s no way we can actually do it,” Scheibmeir said. “Then, you bike across the finish line on day 70… It changed my outlook on life and what I think is possible.” 

Like many Texas 4000 riders, Scheibmeir has personal experiences with cancer. Four members of his family have survived cancer, including a cousin who was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), an aggressive blood cancer. 

Scheibmeir signed up for the marrow registry in 2017. Knowing the chances of matching a patient are slim, he didn’t expect to be called to donate. Then, the day before he began an internship in Washington D.C., Scheibmeir received news that he was a match for someone with AML.

“It was really cool when I found out I was a match with someone who also had AML,” said Scheibmeir, whose cousin received a stem cell transplant from a family member. “That really hit home and I knew it was going to do something I wanted to be involved in.”  

Sheibmeir’s decision to donate was also inspired by a coincidence. His roommate, Nicholas “Nick” Durand, had donated peripheral blood stem cells only a few months earlier at the GenCure Apheresis Center in San Antonio. 

“The coincidence of it all was pretty crazy,” Scheibmeir said. “We both went to UT Austin, we didn’t know each other, but we ended up in the same program and living in the same room in Washington D.C.

“Talking to my roommate relieved so much anxiety because I had the opportunity to ask all the questions I wanted to.”

With the help of GenCure staff, Scheibmeir was able to donate at a center that was only 6 miles from his workplace. 

Individuals can join the registry by texting GENCURE to 61474. Complete the online form, and a cheek swab kit will be mailed within 3-7 business days. Swab the inner cheek and mail the kits back to complete the registration. 

To join the registry, donors must be between the ages of 18 and 44, in general good health, and willing and available to donate to any patient in need.