Mike McCombs

McCombs: Lightning strikes twice, another USC Beaufort athlete will donate bone marrow

USC Beaufort golfer Lina Sekerkova is donating bone marrow through BeTheMatch.com.
USC Beaufort golfer Lina Sekerkova is donating bone marrow through BeTheMatch.com. USC Beaufort

It really is amazing.

There's an old saying that goes "lightning never strikes the same place twice."

But storm watchers and more than a few unlucky people might tell you differently.

And Lina Sekerkova.

The USC Beaufort senior and Sand Sharks golfer would know.

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USCB announced this week, like Sand Sharks baseball pitcher Jason Boulais a year ago, that Sekerkova is a match for a woman in need of a bone marrow transplant and will donate next month.

Like Boulais, Sekerkova was identified through BeTheMatch.org.

Like Boulais, Sekerkova is a hero, even if she didn't set out to be.

"It was my freshman year, my first semester, and there was a health fair," she said. "I saw a big crowd around a tent. I thought it was interesting, though I wasn't really sure what was going on.

"I never thought I would be the match, I just signed up because everyone else was doing it. I never thought about saving someone's life."

Two years went by before Boulais exploded into the spotlight last spring when the athletic department announced he would risk missing his senior season to donate.

"I thought it was pretty cool; two years later he became a match," Sekerkova said. "But it still didn't cross my mind that I could be a match. I didn't think about being signed up in the same program."

Then in October, Sekerkova got an email from BeTheMatch.org that didn't look like the same old regular emails she got from them. It said to give them a call.

When she called, she was told that she was a match with a woman who needed a transplant, and if Sekerkova was OK with it, they needed to run some blood tests.

"I said, 'Definitely, I'll do it,' " Sekerkova said.

But she didn't tell anyone other than her boyfriend until the start of this semester.

"She had never told me she signed up," USC Beaufort golf coach Alexis Bennett said. "I wasn't even the coach at the time she was a freshman. She approached me at the office couple weeks ago and said, 'I got matched.' I was like, 'What are you talking about?' "

One in 540 people end up being a match for someone in need of a bone marrow transplant, according to BeTheMatch.org.

Unlike Boulais, Sekerkova will have a less invasive procedure the second week of February that doesn't involve surgery. But it still puts her senior season at risk. She will miss a qualifier that Bennett uses to determine her lineup.

"Worst-case scenario, she saves a life and can't travel," Bennett said. "There are things far more important things than golf. It's an opportunity to save a life."

Sekerkova thinks her recovery will go smoothly, though, and is confident she'll be back on the course in no time.

But more than that, she's proud. And she should be.

"I feel proud," Sekerkova said. "It's really weird. The chances of this happening at a big school with 20,000 students are small. But twice at USCB, both times to student-athletes, both in our last semester of competing and this happened.

"I'm enjoying the fact that little old USCB, we have character, that we can save a life."

Like Boulais, Sekerkova knows little now about her match.

"A woman in her late 40s, I think," she said. "That's all I know."

Sekerkova said she can meet the woman later anonymously, but she's told the woman has to initiate the meeting.

"I'd like to meet her; why not?" she said.

If she doesn't, Sekerkova will go on to graduate in May with a degree in hospitality management. She plans to go to grad school eventually and one day, she'd like to own a coffee house.

"Something to do with coffee," she said. "I don't know."

One thing she does know, if she can donate again, she will.

"It never crossed my mind, but I asked and I was told you can donate up to three times," Sekerkova said. "If something were to happen down the road and I was a match, I definitely would donate again."

Don't tell her lightning can't strike three times.

Follow sports editor Mike McCombs at twitter.com/IPBGsports

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