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For Montana Tech's Max Anderson, donating white blood cells was an easy decision

Posted at 1:44 PM, Mar 28, 2024

BUTTE — Montana Tech guard Max Anderson's participation in a Be The Match registry event on campus was a straightforward process.

"It wasn't hard to sign up, just a quick cheek swab, then wait, wait wait," said Anderson, a Kalispell Flathead product now gearing up for his senior season with the Orediggers.

The genetic information from that cheek swab was placed into a database that connects patients being treated for a variety of blood cancers including leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma with potential blood stem cell donors.

Over a year went by. But during the 2023 football season, Anderson learned he had been matched with a leukemia patient in his 60s. Football kept him tethered to Butte, which wasn't an issue at the time, but in March the stem cell transplant became more pressing.

"They called me and said it's urgent, we need you to come now and donate," Anderson recalled.

He was soon on a plane to Arizona where he donated stem cells through a peripheral blood stem cell donation, the method most commonly used for extracting blood stem cells. The other, less common procedure is a marrow donation, which then Montana Western defensive back Dylan Pope underwent back in 2020.

"The donation was easy," said Anderson. "I just sat there and had an IV in this arm and and IV in this arm. They just separated what they needed (blood-forming cells) from my blood and put the rest of it back."

Looking back, considering that what he did may potentially save a life, the entire experience was an easy one to sign up for.

"At the worst it was like a slight inconvenience for me," he said. "If you don't like needles maybe it's not for you, but I'm fine with them. I kept all the stuff I needed, so it was a no-brainer to just go ahead and give it."

Anderson played for Tech head coach Kyle Samson at Flathead for his high school freshman and sophomore seasons before Samson departed for the 2019 season to be Tech's offensive coordinator under then head coach Chuck Morrell. Samson was then promoted to head coach for the 2020 season.

For Samson, watching Anderson step up and make that sacrifice for someone he's never meant speaks volumes to who he is, not just on but off the field.

"Max is a tremendous football player, he's an all-conference O-lineman for us," said Samson. "But what he does off the field and what he's gonna do past college football ... the sky's the limit for what he's gonna do."