His name is Oluwaseun Adebiyi, a recent acquaintance I have made and had the privilege of working with. Say hello to my featured hero for the month of February. Before you read the concise and insightful personal interview I had with him, watch this video on him, featured on ESPN:
Me: So, what was your first reaction to the diagnosis?
Seun: Anxiety, dread, and excitement.
Me: And in that moment if there was any thought running through your mind about life, what was it?
Seun: Well, my life certainly got a lot more interesting! I thought to myself, “If I survive this, I will have some story to tell!”
Me: So how did the idea to do something from?
Seun: I couldn’t find a matching bone marrow donor, then I learned that most people of African descent cannot. That was it. That was the spark.
Me: When did you know you definitely wanted to do something about it?
Seun: Almost immediately. I began by setting three goals: recruit 10,000 donors, hold the first donor drive in Nigeria, launch a Nigerian registry, and find a donor to save my life.
Me: So where did the motivation or inspiration to get things moving come from?
Seun: Well, my life, as well as the lives of others, depended on it.
Me: How do you get the idea from a mere idea in the mind, to reality?
Seun: I connected with two donor recruitment centers: DKMS and NMDP, and began organizing drives with them.
Me: Any initial hesitations? How did you deal with them?
Seun: Not for a second- I knew I had to find a donor to survive; but even if I didn’t, maybe I would find a donor for someone else.
Me: Wow. So, is there anybody in particular you would like to credit for motivating you?
Seun: My mother has taught me to always go after what I want, regardless of the obstacles
Me: So tell me Seun, what were your biggest fears?
Seun: Dying before I could complete my mission
Me: And what was it you looked forward most to?
Seun: Getting out of the hospital and back to a normal life
Me: What was the biggest set-back?
Seun: Nigeria didn’t have a registry in 2009 when I wanted to hold a drive, so I had to partner with the South African registry.
Me: And what was your most painful realization along the way? How did you deal with that?
Seun: I saw many people die from cancer along the way. The only thing to do was to keep raising awareness
Me: I’m sorry to hear that. Switching gears – happiest moment in the implementation of the project?
Seun: Launch of the Bone Marrow Registry in Nigeria (BMRN) on Feb 24, 2012.
Me: In retrospect, if you could have done anything better what would it be?
Seun: I wouldn’t have ordered custom tailored shirts and suits right out of the hospital, when I was 20 pounds under weight
Me: Lol, so what was the biggest mistake you think you made that you would do over if you had the chance?
Seun: I’ve made so many it’s hard to pick just one.
Me: Any sacrifices and how you went about them?
Seun: Every breath I take is a gift from my donor, so I can’t take sole credit for my successes. Viewed from this perspective, working for others isn’t a sacrifice; it’s repayment of a debt.
Me: What is the long-term goal of this project? Where do you see yourself in the next say 10 years?
Seun: I’d like to see a large donor pool in Nigeria of adult donors and cord blood donors, as well as a successful stem cell transplant program in the country. I’m working to bring a team of Nigerian doctors and nurses to the University of Nebraska, which has a world-class transplant program, this year.
Me: If you could tell the world one thing, especially young budding minds that really want to make a contribution but don’t know where to start, what would it be?
Seun: Never let reality get in the way of your dreams. Your inner reality can transform into your outer reality with enough persistence and faith.
Me: Who are you inspired by?
Seun: There’s a famous 20th century yogi named Paramhansa Yogananda whose life inspires me
Me: If there was ONE WORD you’ll use to describe yourself, or this experience what would it be?
Seun: Grace (for the experience)
Me: Thank you so much for your time, Seun! Deeply deeply appreciate it and hope many will be as inspired by you as I am!
… So that’s it folks! And as always, I hope I asked the right questions! …