DILLON — Dylan Pope concurs that 2020 was, by and large, not a great year. But he still found a way to make the most of it.
"It was a pretty tough year but having this to look forward to and reflect on has been something pretty big for me," he said.
Pope, a Montana Western defensive back, made the decision to donate bone marrow in December.
"I was nervous, but I was excited to help somebody," Pope said.
At the encouragement of his sister, Mariah, Pope registered with a non-profit called Be The Match in March, shortly after coronavirus knocked the world off kilter.
According to the organization's website, only one out of every 430 registered members will actually go on to donate bone marrow. Pope's sister has been registered for years without a match.
So, Pope was understandably taken aback when, after a little more than three months, he received a call telling him that he had been deemed a suitable donor for an anonymous recipient to receive his blood stem cells, which are derived from bone marrow.
"At first I thought it was fake," Pope said. "I didn't think there was any way it was going to happen after just three months."
With a donation date set in December -- because of confidentiality policies, Pope can't disclose what state or hospital the procedure took place at -- the next months were what one would expect: a lot of paperwork and a lot of blood tests.
The week before the donation, he began receiving daily injections to increase his stem cell count. He then made the trip with his younger brother, Brayton.
The process took eight hours and required only local anesthesia. A needle in his right arm drew blood, ran it through a machine that extracted stem cells and then a needle in his left arm injected blood back into his body.
"It's really not nearly as scary when you get there as you think it's going to be," Pope said.
It'll be a year before Pope learns the identity of who received his bone marrow. He's certain it'll be a moving, powerful experience.
"I bet it'll be pretty emotional thing for both of us, because it was pretty cool to be able to help them," Pope said.
Ryan Nourse, Montana Western's head football coach, said he wasn't surprised by Pope's willingness to donate bone marrow and said he and the program supported him the entire way.
"I think that's a really brave thing, courageous thing for Dylan to go do," Nourse said. "I think that selflessness will shine through to the other guys knowing that maybe I could help somebody in a similar position someday."