Texas A&M-Kingsville student thankful for bone marrow registry

Memorial Student Union Building, Jernigan Library, Javelina Dining Hall - 02/20/17 - 02/22/17

Contact: Julie Navejar
julie.navejar@tamuk.edu or 361-593-2590

Texas A&M University-Kingsville senior Taylor Wilkins has always known he wanted to work with animals. “When I was five years old I knew what I wanted to do. I want to be a Texas Game Warden,” he said.

That dream will be closer to coming true when he receives his bachelor’s degree in range and wildlife management in May. However, a severe illness when Taylor was 10, nearly derailed that dream.

It was a selfless person and a bone marrow registry that made it possible for Taylor to achieve his goals.

The Be a Match Registry® bone marrow registry will be at Texas A&M-Kingsville Monday through Wednesday, Feb. 20-22, signing up students for the registry that saved Taylor’s life nearly 15 years ago.

The registry booths will be open from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on the first floor of the Memorial Student Union Building, in the Jernigan Library and at the Javelina Dining Hall. This event is sponsored by Student Health and Wellness and the Student Government Association. For more information, call 361-593-3991.

During bone marrow donor registration, volunteers will be asked to complete a registration and consent form which requires demographic and contact information. Then, the donor will be given a kit with four cotton swabs. A self-collection process to obtain cheek cells for tissue typing will complete the process. A donor will be on the Be the Match Registry until their 65th birthday. 

Taylor, 25, was 10 years old when he got sick at the beginning of an Alaskan cruise celebrating his grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary. “We were in Vancouver walking around before the ship left and I was really tired. I couldn’t walk five feet before I was tired,” he said.

“Once on the ship, my parents took me to the ship’s doctor who did some tests and said I was anemic, but needed further tests,” he said. “We were already out of port and they couldn’t turn the ship around, so at the next stop my parents and I left the ship in Ketchikan, Alaska.

“I went to the children’s hospital in Ketchikan where they did more tests. We wanted to go home to Houston, but the doctor’s said I was too ill to leave. I was there a couple of weeks until I was sent by life flight to the children’s hospital in Seattle. After more tests, they said I had some form of leukemia.”

“It wasn’t until I got back home to Houston at the Texas Children’s Hospital that they diagnosed me with myelodysplastic syndrome. It’s basically a blood-type of cancer where my white blood cells were eating my red blood cells,” Taylor said.

He needed a bone marrow transplant. No one in his family was a match for Taylor, so he was placed on a list until a donor could be found.

When he was stronger, Taylor was allowed to go home, but he still spent plenty of time in the hospital. “The hospital staff became like my second family.”

It was a great day when the call came that a donor—a young man from Charlotte, North Carolina— had been found for Taylor.

 “I was so thankful at that point. Sept. 6, 2002 is a day I will never forget. It was the day I got a new life with new bone marrow,” Taylor said.

Taylor has been cancer-free for 14 years. He missed most of fourth grade and he was homeschooled for fifth grade until he could go back to school when he started sixth grade. He graduated from Dulles High School in Sugar Land in 2010.

“When I was in high school a member of The Wildlife Society from Texas A&M-Kingsville visited my school and talked about the wildlife program,” Taylor said. “I didn’t look at any other college after that.” 

After completing his basics at Wharton County Junior College, Taylor was accepted and enrolled at Texas A&M-Kingsville. He will cross the stage at commencement in May with a new degree, a wonderful outlook on life, and one step closer to his dream of becoming a Texas Game Warden.