‘Generic guy’ rare bone marrow donor

University of Portland employee Tom Ank donated his rare bone marrow and is now encouraging others to get tested, July 11, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)
University of Portland employee Tom Ank donated his rare bone marrow and is now encouraging others to get tested, July 11, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Tom Ank describes himself as “a  generic Irish-Swedish general Viking guy. I thought I was pretty common.”

But he’s not. And his bone marrow is even more uncommon.

The University of Portland, July 11, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)
The University of Portland, July 11, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)

Ank works at the University of Portland in the IT department. Around the first of the year, nursing students set up a testing center for donating bone marrow. The only reason he went was to convince students to go and get tested.

At 42, he’s also near the age limit for the marrow donation registry, so he didn’t anticipate anything coming from being tested.

He didn’t think much of it at the time, but he soon learned his marrow is very rare. He was able to help save a life in the San Francisco area recently.

Though summer “is the busiest time of the year for me,” he took time off last week to donate his marrow to a person who desperately needed it.

“I came back for one day for my son’s birthday and immediately got on another plane and spent five days in San Francisco to do this because it’s that important,” he told KOIN 6 News. “Everything else can wait because the person who needs it can’t.”

Ank, who is a happy, upbeat guy, now has a new passion as a self-appointed pitchman for the national Bone Marrow Donor program.

He said there was nothing to the procedure. He was left with “nothing but a little bruise.”

His life changed — and other lives changed — because he took a stroll across campus and learned he had something special to give.

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