Hatchell helping to give others ‘new life’ after cancer diagnosis led to search for marrow donors

February 23, 2018 GMT

In 2013, UNC Women’s Basketball Coach Sylvia Hatchell was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. She thought she would need to receive a bone marrow transplant as a form of treatment for her cancer, so Hatchell organized multiple “Be the Match” events.

Her family, from all sides, took a test to see if they were a match, but in Hatchell’s case, none of her blood relatives were a match.

“There was probably a two- or three-month period there that we were like, ‘We’ve got to find you a match, we’ve got to find you a match,’” Hatchell said.

She ended up going with a different treatment path.

Inspired by Hatchell, her niece Amanda Cooley, joined a donor registry with Be the Match. Nearly four years ago, she got the call. She was a perfect match for a teenage boy overseas.

“It wasn’t too long after she recovered and she was back coaching that I received one of the initial calls that I was a possible match for someone,” Cooley said.

Cooley waited about four years until finally, donation day came.

She went through the procedure at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center in January.

“I initially got on the registry to support Sylvia, and hopefully be a match for her if needed, but now I can help someone else,” Cooley said.

Hatchell said she is not surprised by her niece’s giving spirit.

“I’m really proud of Amanda, but I’m not surprised. You know, I know her heart,” she said.

Throughout the whole process, Cooley stayed committed and excited to potentially save someone’s life.

“This is just how we were raised. You help other people in need, and you get what you want by helping other people get what they want,” Hatchell said.

“There’s a lot of people in this world and for me to be a perfect match with someone else, and for it to be because two or three years ago I swabbed my cheek at a basketball game for my aunt, it’s pretty amazing,” Cooley said.

Hatchell said she believes God does not make mistakes, and there was a reason she had leukemia.

“If I hadn’t had leukemia, you know, there are people who probably wouldn’t make it,” Hatchell said. “Basically, my situation, my suffering through leukemia is giving these people another life.”

Hatchell and Cooley will both be honored on the UNC basketball court during Thursday’s game against Syracuse.

The only information Be the Match will share about Cooley’s case is that the patient is a teenage boy who is overseas.