Amelia Kibbe is a senior in the St. Bonaventure University Russell J. Jandoli School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She will graduate in May 2017, with dual majors of journalism and English.
Kibbe has been an editor for the school newspaper, The Bona Venture, for five semesters, serving as managing editor in the spring of 2015 and editor-in-chief that fall. She works for St. Bonaventure’s alumni office, writing and editing the university’s website and publications such as its magazine.
Kibbe spent two summers at the Wellsville Daily Reporter, receiving a New York Press Association grant and a New York News Publishers Association Award of Excellence her second year. She spent last summer as a communications intern for the Pharmaceutical Technologies division of Corning Incorporated, a Fortune 500 global company.
She belongs to the National Honor Society in Journalism and Mass Communication, Kappa Tau Alpha, and the International English Honor Society, Sigma Tau Delta. She is active with campus ministry and works in the university’s records office. Kibbe grew up in Harrison Valley, Pennsylvania, with siblings Steven, Ellen and Ethan and is the daughter of Len and Kathy Kibbe.
“Hello?” Katie Sinclair answered a call from an unfamiliar number on a Friday afternoon in October.
The person calling told Sinclair her cheek swabs and blood tests showed she was the perfect match for a woman desperately in need of a bone marrow transplant.
That meant surgery. Possibly dangerous surgery. And recovery time.
What about her final semester of college? The clubs she ran on campus? Her last chance to lead her Division I softball team as its starting first baseman?
Over the weekend, Sinclair thought about all that.
But, she said, her mind kept going back to the other woman. Her match.
On Monday, she picked up the phone and called the donation organization back.
. . .
In February 2015, Sinclair, then a junior at St. Bonaventure University, had her cheeks swabbed at a university bone marrow drive.
An alumnus of the small Franciscan university in southwestern New York needed a life-saving transplant, so friends hosted the drive on campus.
“Everyone was doing it,” said Sinclair, a business management major. “It really wasn’t a hard decision. I thought, ‘Why not?’”
Through Be The Match, a national bone marrow donation program, about 350 members of the St. Bonaventure community had their cheeks swabbed, reported the campus newspaper.
“And then I mostly forgot about it, honestly,” said Sinclair, a native of Cortland, New York. Although the St. Bonaventure alumnus found a match, the donor had no connection to the university.
Summer arrived. Sinclair worked hard at softball. She wanted to impress her coach as much as she had three years earlier when he first watched her play during a summer league game in Binghamton, New York, and asked her to consider St. Bonaventure.
She was busy preparing for senior year, too. She looked forward to one more year of being a peer coach and a peer mentor to younger students and leading her fellow athletes at weekly meetings for Bona Athletes for Christ, a club she had co-founded as a freshman.
So with all that and keeping up her 3.8 GPA, Sinclair didn’t think too much about that marrow drive. But one day in early fall, she got a call, learned she was a preliminary match for a potential recipient and was asked to give blood for further tests.
“Still I thought, ‘This probably isn’t going to happen,’” she said. “So I just went ahead and did it. I didn’t even tell my parents.”
About a month later, Be The Match informed Sinclair she was a definite match.
“At first I was worried about my senior year and softball,” she said, adding she knew that even for a successful donation surgery, recovery could take longer than six weeks. “So that was going through my head. But then I decided even if it affected school, if it affected softball, it would definitely be worth it to help this person live.”
That weekend she told friends and her parents, who, despite being nervous, supported her fully, she said.
She told one other important person: softball head coach Mike Threehouse.
“I told her that the team would back her up and be there for her,” Threehouse said. “I wasn’t concerned about us at all. I was concerned about her and about the lady who was getting the bone marrow. Obviously that trumps everything we do on the softball field.”
So a week before the spring semester began, Sinclair lay in a hospital bed at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, New York, ready to head into surgery.
The several-hour operation, which removed blood and bone marrow using a syringe placed into the pelvic bone, left Sinclair needing a blood transfusion.
Although she said she recovered well and didn’t miss classes, Sinclair spent much of the following few weeks resting. This meant watching her teammates from the sidelines, she said.
“I would watch them practice in the gym and I had to sit on the exercise bike,” she said. “That was challenging because I really wanted to be out there with them.”
She developed anemia, a shortage of iron in the blood. However, she continued to regain her strength, and by the first game of the season stood ready to play at first base.
Her quick return did not come as a surprise, said Paula Scraba, chaplain to the softball team and adviser of the university’s Physical Activities Club, where Sinclair serves as secretary.
“That’s the type of commitment Katie has,” Scraba said. “She’s a go-to person. Dependable. Very humble.”
The university president also noticed these qualities.
“What impressed me most was Katie’s selflessness to prioritize the critical needs of someone she didn’t even know and may never even meet,” said Margaret Carney, O.S.F., university president. “She knew there was the potential to miss some of her senior season on the softball field, but that didn’t matter.”
Sinclair said she hopes to meet the recipient. Next January, a year after surgery, with both parties’ consent, Sinclair will be able to communicate with the person who received her bone marrow.
“I love being an advocate for bone marrow donations and telling people to swab their cheeks because they never know what could happen,” she said.
Now, as Sinclair’s graduation approaches, Threehouse said he will remember Sinclair as one of the best athletes he’s coached in his more than 20-year career.
“She’s been such a great player for us,” Threehouse said, adding Sinclair led the team in runs batted in this season. “And she represents the university off the field just as well as she does on the field.”
In early May, at Bonaventure’s athletics award ceremony, Sinclair received two of the four prestigious awards given to seniors—one given to the athlete who has maintained the highest standards of performance, integrity, sportsmanship and respect, and one given to the athletedemonstrating outstanding service, dedication and commitment to the athletics department.
“She’s going to be missed,” Scraba said. “You can always fill the position, but you can’t always replace the person.”