KANOEHE BAY, Hawaii --
Due to patient privacy laws, Epps isn’t allowed to know anything about the recipient for at least a year. Even then, he may never meet the girl whose life he saved.
Prior to the surgery, he was occupied with numerous trips to different medical centers for testing. Epps discovered his multiracial background made him an “excellent match.”
“The cotton swabs we took in boot camp is what they use to identify whether or not someone is a possible donor,” he said. “Because of my race, being part African American and part white, it turns out that I’m a perfect match for a lot of different situations.”
For most people, the pain involved in the bone marrow transplant procedure would be their biggest concern, but Epps barely considered it.
According to Epps, doctors will put a tube in his throat, roll him on his stomach and stick two needles into his side, between his spine and his hip, to withdraw a liter of bone marrow. Marrow is a flexible tissue in the interior of the bone that produces new red blood cells and is vital to the body’s lymphatic system.
“After I heard about the procedure, I almost thought, ‘Wow, what am I getting myself into?’ but I know it’s a good deed and I’m not too nervous,” Epps said. “I just put myself in the parents’ shoes for second. If I had an 8-year-old child, I would want someone to do the same thing for me and my family.”
Rather than pain, Epps said he was more concerned by the predeployment training he would miss before his third deployment. His training time has been competing with frequent flights to California, the surgery and now recovery time.
“I want to stay in the fight because I know we’re deploying pretty soon,” Epps said. “I want to help provide our new Marines the best training they can get from us, as well as maintain proficiency in the areas I need to. I just wanted to be able to kill two birds with one stone. Being able to help our new Marines with training and doing a good deed on the side is what I was hoping for.”
Capt. Jeff M. Brewer, India Company commander, 3/3, said Epps’ leaders were proud of his decision to donate.
“The company and battalion are 100 percent behind Epps’ decision,” Brewer said. “We view his decision to donate to this girl in need as honorable, brave and courageous, especially considering the type of recovery involved with the procedure. It’s generous to the tenth degree.”
Brewer said Epps is an important part of the company, but his absence won’t have an adverse affect on himself or his platoon and will take any steps necessary to ready him to deploy.
Epps said it was hard for some of his peers to understand his decision at first, but now, everyone is behind him.
“The Marines pretty much understand what I’m doing, and why I’m doing it,” Epps said. “I respect them for that because it’s tough to see someone go and know you have to pick up their slack for a while. Now that they understand, I think all of the Marines in my company would do the same thing.”
Epps returned to Hawaii, May 11. Doctors told him to expect mild fevers, headaches and some pain around the surgery site over the course of his three-week recovery. He said that would be a small sacrifice compared to how it will help the girl in need.
“Epps saw a need and made himself available,” Brewer said. “It brings good credit upon himself and the battalion. It lets the public know that Marines see themselves as part of a larger effort than just here or in wars overseas. They’re also helping in other areas the best they can.”
Now that the surgery is over, and Epps is recovering, the only thing left for the girl, her family and Epps to do is hope for the best.
Story by Lance Cpl. Tyler Main