Local firefighter lauded for helping young girl

Paul Clark

About 12 years ago, Doug Lane was a student at Warren Wilson College, living in Swannanoa and working up on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Part of a crew that worked wherever it was needed, Lane got some time off to donate blood at the college, where he was studying conservation biology.

Thing was, he had a cold that day, so he couldn’t give blood. But some people from the Be The Match bone marrow donor registry were there and asked if he was interested in donating marrow some day. Sure, he said. If he could help, he would.

It’s for his willingness to help - and for the event that came from that willingness - that the Swannanoa Fire Department on Feb. 29 awarded him its Distinguished Service Award. Lane, a young father, is a captain at the department now. Then he was a departmental volunteer.

“It was an easy thing to do that day,” he said last week of his decision 12 years ago to join the bone marrow registry. A native of Cincinnati, he was thinking about the people he knew who needed bone marrow transplants.

“If I were in their shoes, I would hope people were registered and able to donate,” he said. “If I could be a match for someone, I would want that to happen. If there was some way to help someone, I don’t know how you could say no to that.”

Be The Match lines up donor for people whose marrow is destroyed by bone cancer, a disease diagnosed in an average 480 people each day, the registry states on its website (

Typically, blood marrow donors are between 18 and 44 years old and members of registries that put them in touch with doctors of patients who need help.

Once matched with a patient, anesthetized participants have liquid marrow withdrawn from the back of their pelvic bone (there is also a procedure that involves harvesting blood-forming cells from enriched blood).

Like any medical procedure, especially those involving anesthesia, there are risks involved. Lane was aware of them on the day that his mother called from Cincinnati, three years after he’d registered, to tell him he’d gotten a letter from the registry.

He was a possible match for someone, a young girl, the letter said. If he was still interested in being a donor, doctors wanted to do some tests.

“They didn’t tell me who they had in mind,” Lane said. “They don’t tell you that until afterward if and when both parties are OK with that.”

The procedure was done at a medical facility in Winston-Salem (he’s not sure where, he said, because it was so long ago). He remembers not experiencing any pain, because of the anesthesia.

He was told he’d be sore for a couple of days, but he doesn’t remember being sore. “The joys of youth - things don’t hurt,” he quipped.

When he woke up, he was shown the unit of bone marrow he’d donated. He was told it was heading off to the person who needed it.

The next day, Lane returned to work.

About a year later, the registry people told him the recipient was a little girl in Texas.

Because both parties had asked for each other’s contact info, they gave Lane the girl’s.

He called her up and they talked, the first of a few conversations they had over the years.

He hasn’t talked to her in about a year.

“As far as I know, she’s healthy,” he said. “I haven’t heard anything bad.”

Lane is still on the bone marrow registry. He reapplies every year. “If there is anybody else that matches me and need it (his bone marrow), I can help,” he said.

He feels flattered to be honored by the fire department, but his marrow donation isn’t something he thinks much about.

When he did last week, he acquainted it with what he does with the fire department. “We here to help save a life or impact a life,” he said.

Chris Graves, the Swannanoa Fire Department battalion captain who nominated Lane for the award, has known him for 15 years. They were volunteers together back in the day.

Graves said Lane mentioned the bone marrow donation briefly a couple of times over the years.

But being a private kind of guy, Lane didn’t dwell on it.

He just did it, which doesn’t surprise Graves at all, he said.

“He’s a very generous and caring person,” Graves said. Noting that Lane chose a career that involves helping people, he said Lane doesn’t ask for recognition. “He did it, no questions asked,” Graves said. “That’s how he is.”

The fire department is recognizing him now because it did not previously have an awards program for its members, Graves said.

“We try to recognize members that have done extraordinary things,” he said. “And that definitely qualifies as an extraordinary thing.”