Rallying for a Good Cause: Former Donor Caruccio Will Hold Bone Marrow Drive on January 25

Thursday, January 9, 2014
By Cary Shuman
Vanessa Caruccio

Vanessa Caruccio

Vanessa Caruccio played in a hockey tournament in Marlboro in 2010.  Her decision on that day to register for the National Bone Marrow Drive and become a donor has helped prolong an individual’s life.

The 22-year-old Endicott College graduate and neuro nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital is now bringing that important drive to Winthrop. She will hold a bone marrow drive on Saturday, Jan. 25, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Winthrop Lodge of Elks.

“At the hockey tournament in the lobby technicians had taken a swab of the inside of my mouth with a Q-tip,” said Caruccio. “Three years later I received a call from the Dana Farber Cancer Institute that I was a potential match.”

Caruccio called the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and informed them that she would become a donor. “I had just started my new job and I had orientation for the job,” said Caruccio. “It was hard decision to make because I had no earned time at work but I went through with it.”

Caruccio said because of privacy laws, she knew only that the bone marrow recipient was a 54-year-old male who had Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.

“He needed the bone marrow,” said Caruccio. “I was thinking, ‘Should I donate?’ “And I thought, he was the age of my parents (Paul Caruccio, 57 and Trina Benson, 56). I felt this man had kids my age and I felt obligated. Not everyone considers being a bone marrow donor but it’s something special.”

Caruccio entered the hospital five days before the bone marrow procedure, receiving an injection of Neupogen. “It’s a medication that bumps up your red blood cells in your blood and extracts the good stuff in your bones into the bloodstream.”

She said the bone marrow procedure itself went very well. She spent eight hours in the hospital on the first day and five hours on the second day.

“It’s very easy and the reason why I’m holding this bone marrow drive in Winthrop is because honestly it’s the easiest thing you can do to save a life,” said Caruccio. “To know that a man’s life can be saved is pretty awesome.”

Caruccio hopes to meet the man to whom she donated her bone marrow.

“I’m looking forward to meeting him on September 12,” said Caruccio. “There is a no-contact policy for one year so technically I wasn’t even supposed to contact him but on the last day of donating my bone marrow, I sent a simple card that said, “Sending Sunshine Your Way, Signed Your Donor.”

“And I got a card back from him,” said Caruccio.

Caruccio “did it all” in her four years at Winthrop High School. She received a dozen varsity letters in soccer, ice hockey, and track and was a captain and a Northeastern Conference All-Star. She was the class president, an honor roll student, a member of the National Honor Society, and a mentor in Chris Donnelly’s Life Skills Program.

She was featured in the national Music Television (MTV) show “Made,” in which she was transformed from ice hockey to ballerina princess. Cameras followed her around for six weeks for the show.

“I had a great experience at Winthrop High,” said Caruccio. “The teachers really prepared me well for college.”

Caruccio said she was in the eighth grade when she started to think about a career in nursing. “I volunteered at Children’s Hospital and I fell in love with the profession. The whole nursing experience in general, I really enjoyed it.”

Caruccio is still playing sports and she will be at Gillette Stadium Saturday night when the New England Patriots play the Indianapolis Colts in the divisional round of the playoffs.

“It’s my first Patriots’ game,” said Caruccio. “I’m so excited but it’s supposed to rain.”

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