Three years ago, a perfectly healthy Brett Baeverstad lay quietly in a Denver hospital bed, hooked up to a machine siphoning precious, life-sustaining stem cells. Those cells from Baeverstad’s body would give a gravely ill stranger a second chance to live.
The apheresis machine that took Baeverstad’s bone marrow stem cells that day is the same kind of machine on which the graduating senior will begin his engineering career.
After finishing up at CSU with a dual degree in chemical engineering and biomedical engineering, Baeverstad will begin full-time employment as a quality engineer at Terumo BCT, a blood component and cellular technologies company. He interned at the Lakewood, Colo.-based company, after he had the life-changing experience of donating bone marrow stem cells through the National Marrow Donor Program. In collaboration with the nonprofit Genny’s Hope, Baeverstad and his fraternity brothers started on-campus bone marrow registry drives in 2013.
What started as a service opportunity with Phi Kappa Theta turned personal, when, during Baeverstad’s junior year, his cells were a perfect match for a leukemia patient. Since Phi Kappa Theta began the drives, they’ve added close to 500 potential donors to the list, and one, besides Baeverstad, has gone on to donate.
“When we started the drives, we’d see stories of the patients, and how can you say no to helping them out?” Baeverstad says. “At that point I knew I wanted to do something medical, but I wasn’t quite sure what. When I went through the donation procedure and understood how much of an impact it had on my life, being just the donor, and understood how much it impacts the patients, it was something I became very interested in.”
Baeverstad donated peripheral blood stem cells to a patient with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He experienced flu-like symptoms while his body built up drug-stimulated stem cells, and then spent about five hours on a Terumo BCT apheresis machine.
Baeverstad couldn’t be happier about how his school, service, and personal passion have come full circle to the opportunity to work at Terumo BCT.
The Fort Collins native says he was initially nervous about going to college five miles from his home. But the experience has been better than he could have hoped, thanks to a quickly discovered passion for biomedical engineering, and all the support he received as a CSU student.
“There’s no way I’d be where I’m at without my degree,” he says. A dual degree gave him “a lot of options” – and a chance to specialize in a field that marries medicine, technology and engineering.