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GBCC students and staff register bone marrow donors for one of their own

Union Leader Correspondent

February 26. 2018 9:50PM
Ethan Elbert, of Farmington, is studying computer technology at GBCC. He participated in the bone marrow drive for a fellow student Monday after math teacher Peter Hopkinson told him about it. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent)

Cameron Russell, the GBCC who recently underwent treatment for leukemia, was able to attend the bone marrow drive for a short period of time Monday. ((Courtesy Photo))

PORTSMOUTH — Great Bay Community College students and faculty members who participated in a bone marrow drive for one of their own were successful in registering more than 100 potential donors Monday.

Cameron Russell, 19, is pursuing a degree in English and began taking classes at GBCC in 2016 after high school. Russell’s troubles began when he crashed his pickup truck in Newmarket on Oct. 1 of that year.

Russell was transported to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, where he was in a coma for three weeks.

During his treatment, doctors discovered Russell had cancer. He was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues, including the bone marrow and lymphatic system.

Russell had his first round of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant after recovering from the crash. But this fall, he discovered the cancer was back.

Peter Hopkinson, Russell’s GBCC math teacher, decided to organize the bone marrow drive for him when he learned Russell would not likely finish the semester.

“Class is like family here. Everyone knows your name. We’re tight,” Hopkinson said.

Hopkinson and nursing professor Laurie Murray teamed up with the international nonprofit organization DKMS to host a bone marrow drive in the school’s main lobby in Portsmouth.

By 3:15 p.m. Monday, they had met their goal of signing up 100 people.

Nursing students, a representative from DKMS and people who have been personally affected by the power of bone marrow transplants were on hand to help.

GBCC Safety Officer Steve Dockery said he donated bone marrow 15 years ago. He talked about the power of meeting the Boston man who benefitted from it.

“I would do it again in a heartbeat,” Dockery said.

Joe Prestipino, of Kingston, was greeting people as they entered the school. Prestipino had a bone marrow transplant six years ago.

Prestipino said he messages with his Polish donor, Aneta Rudnicka-Kwiecier, using a Google translator on a regular basis.

“We’ve been messaging all day. She’s very excited about the drive,” Prestipino said Monday.

According to, every three minutes someone in the U.S. is diagnosed with a blood cancer.

“For many patients, a bone marrow transplant is the best chance for survival. While 30 (percent) of patients can find a matching donor in their families, 70 (percent) — nearly 14,000 each year — must rely on a benevolent stranger to step up and donate,” the website states.

Russell was able to attend the blood drive with his mother, Lisa, for a short period of time. Hopkinson said they were overwhelmed by the support.

Education Health Portsmouth

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