Luke Gane, Aplastic Anemia Survivor and UCLA Bruin | Aplastic Anemia and MDS International Foundation (AAMDSIF) Return to top.

Luke Gane, Aplastic Anemia Survivor and UCLA Bruin

Luke Gane

At the time, Luke Gane considered himself a typical sophomore.  It was July 2008, and Luke was getting ready for the all-important junior year of high school football season. He had his wisdom teeth removed and afterwards, found himself spitting up blood.  It was chalked up to a side-effect of the surgery.  Little did Luke know, his health was in jeopardy.  In the days ahead, Luke became fatigued; shortly thereafter, a 2-hour nose bleed turned into a trip to the emergency room. 

After a series of blood work and a bone marrow biopsy, Gane was diagnosed with aplastic anemia.  Aplastic anemia is a rare blood disorder in which the body's bone marrow doesn't make enough new blood cells. If your bone marrow can't make enough new blood cells, many health problems can occur.

“I was surprised with the diagnosis,” Luke said.  “But I had faith that everything was going to be OK.”

In fact, Luke never really considered that he wouldn’t be OK; he credits his positive outlook to his religious faith.  Luke was in for a long road of treatment and recovery.   Gane spent four months in the hospital, receiving 10 days of chemotherapy in preparation for a bone marrow transplant.  The donor was his younger brother Jacob. Nearly two months after the diagnosis of aplastic anemia, Luke underwent the transplant.

“I forever owe him,” Luke says. “And he reminds me of it.  We will be eating dinner and there will be one roll left and he’ll say, ‘remember who gave you bone marrow.’”

What’s more, Jacob wrote an essay titled "Why I am Thankful for my Bone Marrow" in a contest sponsored by Stonefire Grill Restaurant in November 2008, the year Luke was sick. The theme of the essay was "Why I am thankful?"  Jacob was the grand prize winner.

Luke says that he is glad he was the one with the diagnosis and not his brothers.

“I think it would have been harder to watch them go through it,” Luke says. “I'm glad it was me and not them.”

Because of the rigorous treatment, Luke missed the entire 2008 high school season. During Luke's illness, his Edison High School football team rallied together to dedicate the season to him. Luke knew the only way to contribute to the team that year was to be an inspiration to his teammates. He was so inspired by that season, and with the help of his family, his football brotherhood, his church, and his community, he fought back and played his senior year.  Luke was able to help his team obtain a 13-1 record, only to lose to one of their biggest rivals, Servite, in the CIF Championships. In an interesting twist of fate, the one team who embraced and supported Luke during his illness and helped raise funds through fundraisers was their rival team, Servite.  

Luke says there was never a question that he would return to the gridiron; it was just a matter of when. But, much to Luke’s disappointment, interest from college coaches dwindled. 

“Junior year is when the majority of recruitment happens,” Gane says. “I was told I was a Division II player at best and I wanted to prove them wrong.”

Gane took a chance. He was determined to prove his critics wrong, working so hard to get back into playing shape. He took a chance and decided to try to walk on at UCLA. His dream was always to be a Bruin, being a native Californian. And it’s come true; as redshirt freshman, he’s seen action on special teams and on the offensive side of the ball at tight end.

Gane says he’s never questioned why him.  He’s used his diagnosis as an example of staying positive. He hopes he’s a role model for others going through similar situations and enjoys telling his story. He says it’s the best feeling in the world to visit patients in the hospital, telling them that they, too, can face adversity with a smile. His message is powerful; his actions equally as impressive. He’s playing Division I football, 3 years after fighting for his life.

This past summer, Luke was granted his wish to meet and spend time with Tim Tebow, quarterback for the NFL Broncos team. This was graciously sponsored by the Make-A-Wish Foundation. It was an unbelievable experience for Luke and his brothers, as Tim is a wonderful role model for them.

Currently, Luke’s story of overcoming incredible odds to play football at UCLA is in pre-production and story development. This feature film script based on Luke's life is being described as "RUDY" meets "SOUL SURFER".