Commencement 2015: URI senior’s life-changing decision saved a stranger

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KINGSTON, R.I. – April 22, 2015 – University of Rhode Island senior Caroline Casey took a leap of faith and ended up saving a life.

Casey, a resident of Columbia, M.D. and a four-year member of the URI women’s varsity volleyball team, signed up to donate bone marrow on a whim when members of the football team drove around campus on golf carts, shouting at pedestrians through megaphones to register, a Rhody tradition. She never expected that she would be called upon to donate her bone barrow. But in August 2013, she answered the call.

“When you get called to donate bone marrow that will save someone’s life, you can’t say no. A lot of people who donate bone marrow say they get a feeling right away that there’s no question if they’ll donate. That’s how I felt.”

A year and a half after successfully donating bone marrow in October 2013, Casey had a life-changing experience: she met the person whose life she saved.

“The night of the event they kept us separate,” said Casey.

The audience of 300 people watched a video of the marrow recipient telling her story: she was pregnant when she received Casey’s marrow and because of the transplant was able to deliver a healthy baby boy.

“Everyone in the room was crying,” said Casey.

Casey met her recipient in the middle of the stage in front of the audience, just after the video was shown. “It was unreal,” remembered Casey. Then the recipient’s family joined her on stage, and Casey held the woman’s baby, then 18 months old.

“He didn’t cry or anything! He was just like, ‘Oh, OK! I’m here now!’” she remembered.

Casey said that her faith was a major factor in her decision to donate. “As a Christian, you go through life seeking opportunities to serve, so when someone gives you an opportunity to save a life, you say yes!”

Casey’s faith played a big role in her college experience. In fact, she said that connecting with other Christian athletes through a weekly Bible study was the biggest help for her at URI.

Not only is Casey a co-captain of URI’s Division I women’s volleyball team, she is also ranked 14th all-time in block assists at URI with 211. Her 3.83 cumulative GPA in kinesiology got her on the dean’s list and Atlantic 10 Commissioner’s Honor Roll seven times and the Atlantic 10’s All-Academic Team twice.

But despite these accolades, donating bone marrow was Casey’s proudest moment at URI, not just because she saved a life, but also because she dropped everything to do it. She missed several days of rigorous kinesiology classes and training with the team. “I was really proud that I was able to donate in-season,” she said.

“My team was super supportive the whole time,” she added. Many others supported Casey during the process, including her parents and members of the URI athletic department staff. Former URI football coach Joe Trainer played a large role in her decision to donate and later helped organize the event at which Casey met her recipient.

After the kinesiology major earns her degree at URI May 17, Casey might pursue physical or occupational therapy.

“Whatever I do,” she said, “I want to serve others. I want to be able to work with people and help them.”

Pictured above: Casey speaks at a reception for 2015 dean’s list student athletes. Photo by Mike Salerno.

Casey donates bone marrow at the Rhode Island Blood Center in Providence. Photo courtesy of Caroline Casey.

Video courtesy of CSNNE

Emma Clarke, an intern in the Department of Marketing and Communications and a public relations major, wrote this release.