Virginia football player Trevor Grywatch makes a big sacrifice

By Steve Yanda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 21, 2010; 1:37 AM

CHARLOTTESVILLE - Every morning of his childhood, Trevor Grywatch's mother greeted him with the same question: What are you going to do today that's not about you, Trevor?

On Oct. 11, Grywatch - now a junior walk-on for the Virginia football team - could have answered: I'm going to help save a man's life.

That was the day the 20-year-old Ashburn native entered the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center in Richmond and spent six hours having stem cells stripped from his blood so that they could be packaged and flown to an undisclosed location in the United States. There, a 60-year-old male with acute myeloid leukemia waited for 12 ounces of Grywatch's identical antigens, the only remedy that potentially could sustain him.

"It kind of felt like another community service project, in a sense," Grywatch said. "Not to minimize how serious it was for the recipient or anything, but on my side of it, it was a way that I could help somebody out that was in need of assistance."

Grywatch was empathetic not just for the recipient, but also for the recipient's family, the ones who had to helplessly stand by as a relative confronted an unknown future. Five years ago, Grywatch felt those same emotions when his mother, Patty, discovered she had skin cancer. She underwent tissue-saving surgery to remove the melanoma from her face and is in remission today.

But being forced to acknowledge his mother's mortality had a lasting impact on Grywatch and, upon learning he was a perfect genetic tissue-type match for a man with cancer, it made his decision that much easier.

"I think what it opened him up to is that life is valuable, life is precious," Patty Grywatch said. "It has its twists and turns. When kids are young, you don't think about the possibility of losing someone. [Trevor and his younger sister, Tricia] hadn't even lost a grandparent. That was the first scare they had of someone that close. . . . Giving something that is naturally in your body just seems so simple when you've been raised with that kind of mentality."

When Grywatch called his mother during the third week of August to inform her he was going to go through with the transfusion procedure, there was no hesitation in his voice.

"Mom," he said, "how can I not do this?"

'Divine intervention'

While at a dermatologist's appointment for her daughter in 2005, Patty Grywatch was taken in for testing after a doctor didn't like the look of a freckle on her face. The test results revealed Patty had skin cancer, which, she said, can "be a death sentence, or you can be fortunate that they found it early, and they did. They found it early."

Six hours of surgery were required to slowly remove layers of the sand dollar-size melanoma from her face.

So Patty has plenty of firsthand experience from which to draw when she calls the confluence of events "divine intervention."

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