CHICAGO (CBS) — Instead of focusing on finishing up his tennis career at DePaul on a high note, Luuk Wassenaar had something much more important he was focusing on.
On Wednesday, CBS 2’s Matt Zahn told us Wassenaar’s story of amazing selflessness.
On the court, DePaul’s Luuk Waasenaar stands tall — helping the Blue Demons men’s tennis team to another fantastic season.
“We managed to win the Big East championship so it’s a win-win for us.”
It’s a win-win because of what Luuk was doing off the court, putting someone else’s needs above his own; someone he didn’t even know — someone he may never even meet. But before we get there, we have to go back to how it began — with a seemingly innocent gesture last October as Luuk was going to watch a women’s volleyball match.
“I just went to watch as I would always do, and there was a little booth out there,” he said.
That booth was for “Be the Match,” an organization that matches donors with people suffering from life-threatening blood cancers that need a bone marrow transplant.
“They asked me if I wanted to swab. I kind of was in a rush, so I wasn’t sure. The lady was like, ‘no, it’s super quick,’ so I swabed, it was super quick, and I went on with my day.”
He says he didn’t think much of it.
“No, no. I had no clue. The chances are so low that I’m going to be matching with someone. They told me it’s like finding a needle in a haystack.”
But just a couple of months later on winter break at home with his family in the Netherlands, Luuk got the call about a potential connection with a 20-year-old leukemia patient. Luuk then had to undergo some tests, do some blood work, and fill out a long questionnaire about his health. Being a high-level college athlete helps there. Little by little it became clear that Luuk was going to be a perfect match.
“I really wanted to be the donor for this guy because I knew this could maybe be his only chance.”
Luuk says he was a little worried about the outcome of the procedure.
“A little bit, but as I did more research, it’s actually not as bad as people say it is. There’s a little bit of a stigma around bone marrow transplantations that it’s this super-tough process. From my experience, that was just not the case at all.”
The procedure itself was supposed to take place in April, but it got moved up to February because the patient had taken a turn for the worse. Luuk had to receive a series of injections before finally laying down for the bone marrow retrieval process. It was a little long, but as you might expect Luuk took it in stride.
“I had to lay down for like six hours which was a little bit uncomfortable, but I would take that any day to be able to donate. After I did have some issues. I had to get some more blood work done, but everything was fine.”
Luuk said it took about two to two and a half weeks for him to return to his normal high level of play on the tennis court. Yes, he did this all during his team’s season. But of course, it didn’t stop the Blue Demons from winning a Big East title, and apparently, nothing would stop Luuk from doing this again if he could.
“It just felt like it was the right thing to do. I’m proud and happy that I did it.”
Matt: You said you’d do this again?
Luke: Oh yeah, I’d do this again, yeah, for sure.
Luuk has not met the patient he donated for. After a year, if they both sign a consent form, they can meet up. Luuk definitely wants to meet, but he’s okay either way.