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Mark Fish giving bone marrow to ailing infant via SGF Marathon Dance initiative

By Gordon Woodworth, Chronicle News Editor

Nearly six years after joining an international bone marrow registry at the 2012 South High Marathon Dance, Greenwich School Superintendent Mark Fish will donate his bone marrow next month to help an infant with a serious blood disorder.

Mr. Fish a 1983 South High graduate and his wife Jill are core Marathon Dance volunteers. All three of their children — Kelsey, Erin and Patrick — served as Marathon Dance student chairs.

At the 2012 Dance, the Fishes and oldest daughter Kelsey had their cheeks swabbed to enter the bone marrow registry of an international non-profit called DKMS (see adjacent story).

“Joy Clark, who was a secretary at the Oliver W. Winch Middle School [where Mr. Fish was then the principal] was a recipient that year, and was awaiting a bone marrow transplant,” Mr. Fish told The Chronicle.

“I think just about everyone in town got swabbed,” to join a registry seeking to match bone marrow donors and patients in need, he recalls.

Greenwich School Superintendent Mark Fish and his wife Jill. Photo by Sarah Craft Kill

‘You’re a match!’

He said he’d long forgotten about being tested, until the day before Thanksgiving.

“I came home from work and Jill asked me if I had ordered something online. I said no, and she said, ‘Well, you have a Fed Ex package here for you.’ I opened it up, and it said, “You’re a Match!”

Mr. Fish said he was familiar with the process, not only because of his friend Joy Clark but because his business manager in Greenwich, Troy Tyler, used to work with Jeff Ziegler in the Fort Edward school.

Mr. Ziegler’s daughter Emily battled leukemia in high school, and Queensbury School tested fans at a Spartan hockey game for potential bone marrow matches.

Last week, Mr. Fish flew to an East Coast city — confidentiality rules prohibit his talking about specifics — and had what he called “the most intensive physical I’ve ever had. They said they wanted to make sure I was healthy enough to do this.”

Sometime in January, he will return to that hospital, where they will “take marrow out of my pelvic hip bone, drop the recipient’s immune system and essentially rebuild it with my bone marrow.”

Surreal and very humbling

Mr. Fish said it’s “surreal and very humbling to have this opportunity. This isn’t about me. It’s about this amazing organization and the incredible work that they do. If I can help this family, how wonderful would that be?

“They told me I could have been a match for anyone in the world. The recipient could have been on Reservoir Road or in Hong Kong.”

Mr. Fish said after learning he was a match, he called Mrs. Clark, and said she was “moved to tears.”

Contacted for comment, Mrs. Clark said, “It humbles me. I’m so grateful for so many people who rallied around me. Because of their love for me, someone else will have a chance.”

Mr. Fish said, “It’s an amazing story. I get tested to honor my friend Joy, at the South High Marathon Dance, which is so important to my family, and now I am in a position to help a young child I don’t even know.”

He said he hopes to communicate with the family after a year. “They asked me if I wanted to know about the recipient, and of course I do.

“DKMS is truly an amazing organization, and I hope anyone reading this story will consider being tested to be a potential match. I want other people to get into their database, because this is a top-flight operation. I couldn’t be more impressed.”


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