Officer Lamarche Donates to Make a Difference

June 6, 2014

Courtesy Photo Officer Roger Lamarche spends time with his nephew Luke at Old Home Days in Hudson.

by Tom Tollefson

Police officers make a difference every day, whether it’s apprehending a dangerous suspect or simply rescuing a dog or cat.  However, Hudson police officer Robert Lamarche recently made a difference on his own time in a very different way.  On March 25, Lamarche donated bone marrow to potentially save a man’s life.

“I just feel like it’s in my nature to genuinely help people.  A lot of people commended me for what I did, but I look at it as just being a lucky match.  The donation didn’t cost anything personally or financially and potentially helping save someone’s life outweighs anything bad that could have come from it,” Lamarche said.

The organization Delete Blood Cancer organized the entire process for Lamarche and the bone marrow recipient.  Lamarche is currently waiting to hear about the recipient’s condition after the stem cell transfusion.  Delete Blood Cancer only gives limited information about the anonymous recipient.  The only information Lamarche knows is that the man is 39 years old, has a type of Leukemia called AML (Acute Myeloid Leukemia), and lives in the United States.  A year after a donation, the donor and recipient can meet, if mutually agreed upon.

“I’d like to meet my recipient and see that they had a successful transfusion and put a face to the case,” he said.

The technical name for the process is peripheral blood stem cell donation.  First it involved him being injected with a synthetic protein, Filgrastim, which increased his body’s production of more blood stem cells.  They hooked him up to a machine that separated the stem cells from his blood, and then it would return anything that it didn’t need back into his body.  The procedure itself took five and a half hours, and they collected enough stem cells for two transfusions, if needed.

“The procedure itself was like donating blood, just for five and a half hours,” Lamarche said about his experience.  “In my left arm was the line they used to extract the blood.  They went through the machine with the centrifuge (a piece of equipment).  They were able to separate the stem cells out of my blood and collect the stem cells into an IV bag, and return the remaining white and red blood cells that weren’t needed.”

Lamarche drove up to Dartmouth Hitchcock for the donation.  Delete Blood Cancer covered his cost for a stay in the hotel the night before.  It started at 7 a.m., and he was out of the hospital and on his way home by 2 p.m. that afternoon.

Lamarche first heard about donating bone marrow in September of 2008 while at one of the Hudson Police Department’s annual blood drives.  A man at the blood drive had a two-year-old son who was looking for a donor (Lamarche later found out that he was not a match for the toddler) and shared information with him about donating bone marrow.

“I signed up and registered through him for the organization deletebloodcancer.org.  At the time all I had to do then was just let them take a cotton swab of saliva so that they could get my DNA.  They kept that on file in their database.  I was expecting to hear back from them relatively soon to see if I was a match or not.  After not hearing back from them for a while I assumed that I wasn’t a match for anyone,” Lamarche said.  “Then I got an e-mail from the organization in the beginning of this past February.  It was actually in my junk email folder and I just happened to check it.  The information in the email was intimate knowledge of my registration so I knew it wasn’t junk e-mail.  It said I was potentially a match for someone.  They gave me contact information and I followed up with them to let them know I was still interested in being a donor.”

Within a couple of weeks of taking a blood test, he was contacted again and the recipient’s physician said he was the best match.  Once they determined he was the best match, they coordinated the best time for him to donate.  They did a very thorough physical to make sure he was well enough to be a suitable donor health wise.

Lamarche was fully informed of the process and risks involved in the donation before giving it a full commitment.

“They walk you through the whole process before you commit to it so you know what to expect and what you’re committing to,” he said.

The biggest risks are for the recipient.  A total commitment from the donor is crucial.  A total of 14-20 days before starting the procedure, the recipient is given high doses of chemotherapy in order to receive the donor’s stem cells.  If the donor decides to back out the recipient could potentially die from being administered aggressive levels of chemotherapy in order to receive the donor’s stem cells.

According to Lamarche, his risks as a donor were minimal and included the basic risks of rare complications occurring during a medical procedure.  Death was not one of the risks.

“To me the risks don’t outweigh the potential to save someone’s life,” Lamarche said.

Lamarche was sore during the pre-procedure days due to the synthetic protein making his hip bones ache.

“It wasn’t sore to the point where I couldn’t tolerate it or had to take pain medication,” he said.

The minor pain soon dissipated, but Lamarche was left with fatigue for the next two days.  “I had no issues with pain; it was just fatigue.”

The only other side effect for Lamarche was a swollen spleen for two weeks after the procedure as a result of the synthetic protein he had been given to generate extra stem cells.  As a result, the doctors told him not to engage in any strenuous activity for two weeks.  Lamarche returned to active duty on the police force two days later, but did remain as careful as possible to not physically exert himself while on duty.

“I was aware of the potential concerns and was as careful as I could be given the circumstances.  I didn’t want to miss too much work,” he said.

Lamarche recommends blood marrow donation to others and described it as being low risk on his part.

“I think if we can bring awareness to the organization of how easy the donation is then we’ll have more people register who could be potential matches for those in need,” Lamarche said.  “If anyone is concerned about the procedure and if it’s painful, I think the benefits outweigh the potential concerns that they have.”

Helping others is nothing new to Lamarche.  He also donates blood at the two annual HPD blood drives in town and helps with Special Olympics.  He has been in the HPD for almost 10 years and graduated from UMass Lowell with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in 2002.

For more information on donating blood marrow, go to www.deletebloodcancer.org.