Coastal Carolina runner saved dad’s life, won national title

Melvin Jefferson was screaming at the television in his Georgetown household on March 12, together with a half-dozen other spouse and children users, as his youngest daughter was competing in — and winning — the NCAA women’s national 60-meter closing race in Birmingham, Alabama.

In a sense, he was celebrating each the accomplishment and his existence on this earth to enjoy it.

Coastal Carolina junior sprinter Melissa Jefferson is liable for both of those blessings.

During her senior yr at Carvers Bay Significant School, Melissa donated stem cells to repair service and swap her father’s damaged bone marrow and help save his daily life, making it possible for him to view her make history by saying the Chanticleers’ first NCAA person championship in observe and discipline.

“She’s amazing,” Melvin explained. “Our daughter fundamentally was our lifesaver. She touches every person she comes into get in touch with with. I’m just so grateful, so grateful. She was a godsend.”

Melissa’s earn was considered the major upset of the Division I Indoor Observe & Subject Championships by the running and monitor web page

She matched the fifth-speediest time ever in the function and completed atop a star-studded area of 16. It included Texas’ Julien Alfred, who set the collegiate record of 7.04 in her March 11 heat defending countrywide champ and earlier 60-meter record-holder Kemba Nelson of Oregon American and collegiate 200-meter record holder Abby Steiner of Kentucky and European Underneath-20 100- and 200-meter champion Rhasidat Adeleke of Texas.

Saving A Lifestyle AND THE Spouse and children

As huge as the gain was for Melissa, it finishes a distant second in her life span achievements.

Melvin, 58, who was a upkeep worker at Brookgreen Gardens and did residential garden treatment on the facet, was sensation excessively drained in the drop of 2017.

He acquired a bone marrow biopsy in February 2018 after numerous blood assessments ended up inconclusive and was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome — primarily an early type of leukemia in which bone marrow is not producing enough white blood cells for the immune process.

His survival needed a bone marrow or stem cell transplant.

When a donor was sought, Melvin underwent chemotherapy and a few added incredibly distressing bone marrow biopsies for examination.

A fantastic match out of thousands and thousands of options was found, but it was exposed a handful of days prior to the scheduled transplant that the donor experienced qualities of sickle cell anemia. “That’s like buying and selling the devil for the witch,” Melissa claimed.

Tests turned to relatives members. A sister and Melvin’s two oldest daughters were being all 50 percent matches, and the sister was deemed the most popular match. But Melissa, then 17, hadn’t been analyzed nevertheless. Minors aren’t ordinarily requested to examination to be donor matches except if it is an instant family member, and it demands parental consent.

“I remember telling my mom I had a experience it was heading to be me anyhow for the reason that which is just how God is effective,” Melissa stated Tuesday. “. . . I explained I’m likely to do it for the reason that it’s my dad and I appreciate him and I want him here for a extended time.”

Melvin became sick and had to be hospitalized, so the stem cell transplant was expedited. The course of action took put around two days in late September 2018, soon before Melissa was crowned Carvers Bay’s homecoming queen.

Stem cells have been removed from her blood through a series of transfusions from one of her arms to the other.

Melvin was presented hefty doses of radiation to eviscerate his immune technique so Melissa’s cells could enter his system devoid of resistance, which left his immune program as susceptible as a new child newborn.

“I consider Melissa went by the worst of it simply because they had to extract her stem cells,” Melvin mentioned.

He had to be isolated for 100 times afterward, initially at the medical center for 30 times, then at a resort for a week, and the remainder at Charleston’s free Hope Lodge for most cancers patients and their caregivers. His wife, Melissa’s mom, Johanna, stayed with him.

Throughout his isolation, Melvin was stricken with a lifestyle-threatening rhinovirus that prompted intense shakes and alternating burning fevers and freezing chills for a several times, but he survived even though reciting or singing prayers and scriptures all through the ordeal. He returned property on Dec. 27, 2018.

Melvin’s bone marrow stays 100% healthful donor cells, however he has diminished endurance now so he has to limit physical exercise and just cannot do the maintenance work opportunities he done just before his sickness. He’s significantly delicate to cold temperatures, but he walks for exercising and usually cooks.

“All of her stuff is in me, I just do not have the velocity,” Melvin joked.


The Jeffersons are associates of Lighthouse of Jesus Christ Independent Nondenominational Church, and each Melvin and Johanna, the longtime general public housing manager of the Georgetown Housing Authority, are ministers there.

Faith and local community involvement go deep in the family, as Johanna’s father, the late Rev. Thomas Lance, was a minister at 3 Georgetown County churches.

In the course of the original 100 times of Melvin’s recovery, the family’s church and many others in the group held an envelope push to assist them shell out their payments. People donated funds and offered their information on an enclosed postcard, if they chose to.

Melvin is aware of of about 400 individuals who donated and thinks the precise quantity is possible about 600. A damaged air conditioner in their dwelling was changed making use of some of the resources when Melvin and Johanna had been in Charleston.

“My cellphone has been going nuts due to the fact (the semifinal heats) Friday night. I’m what you like to contact a village child. I have my dad and mom and my spouse and children, but my family is really a lot extended into my community,” claimed Melissa, who feels a unique link to men and women in the places of Dunbar, Oatland, Browns Ferry and Lanes Creek, “and Carvers Bay Substantial School, and then Georgetown County as a whole. It’s just a great factor to knowledge and be a portion of when you know every person back again house is rooting for you.”

Melvin has posted several YouTube video clips showcasing Melissa’s exploits.

“Because I consider that her tale has acquired to be advised,” he stated. “. . . The journey was not uncomplicated for her to get exactly where she is now, and we’re all a portion of it, and we’re all so happy to be a component of it.”

Growing TO AN ELITE Stage

Melissa didn’t plan on attending CCU because it was nearer to dwelling than she wanted her faculty encounter to be.

“Had I followed my initially intuition and not absent to Coastal, I would not be sitting listed here currently as a national winner,” Melissa said. “It’s just listening for symptoms and owning that feeling of some thing is ideal. Which is seriously what drove me to appear right here.”

She has blossomed under the route of CCU assistant coach for sprints and hurdles Karl Goodman, 28, a previous Texas-Arlington sprinter from England. He was first hired at CCU in 2019 right after serving as a graduate assistant for a couple a long time at UTA, and he creates exercise session applications and instruction for every single of his runners separately.

Melissa was a 100-meter condition champion as a superior university senior but admittedly arrived at CCU with no the right running mechanics.

“We went all the way back to sq. a person with her and just painted the image, and she’s seriously taken it to a new level,” Goodman stated.

She writes down “easy, medium and hard” objectives for the calendar year, and she underestimated herself on the top aim, which she established at reaching the NCAA final and functioning a 7.16. “Then I go out there on Friday (in a semifinal warmth) and operate 7.10, and I’m like, ‘OK, well at this point it’s past me, we’ll just see what comes about future,’” she stated.


Melissa mentioned she turned to God in advance of the ultimate, and it served her get into a deeper concentration than she’s ever had in a race.

“I had a chat with God, and I instructed him that I desired him to guideline my ft and I wished him to show the environment what he’s able of doing,” Melissa mentioned. “So although I was sitting down there, I basically could experience his existence, and all I could see was my lane in entrance of me, and all the things else was cloudy.”

Prior to the Sunlight Belt Meeting Championships on Feb. 20-21, Melissa’s personal most effective time set this time was a 7.23, and Goodman envisioned that to get her into the NCAA fulfill. So his strategy was for Melissa to peak at the national championships at the feasible price of the Sun Belt finals, which she even now received in 7.22.

“The approach was in spot for her to be completely ready for the NCAA fulfill,” Goodman reported. “We were being education all via the week of convention, and I claimed, ‘You’re going to have to go there with heavy legs and carry out,’” Goodman claimed. “I stated, ‘That was good now we’re actually in small business.’”

When Melissa observed her time and position right after stretching throughout the end line in the NCAA remaining, her response was unbridled. She consistently jumped for joy and screamed, to some degree oblivious to a pair of competition presenting her congratulations. Goodman experienced a likewise astonished reaction.

“When I observed my identify on the board, I variety of just missing it because I was like, ‘Oh wow. I truly did it.’ It was a rather particular minute for me,” she claimed.

Melissa has lost rely of the volume of occasions she has watched a video of the race.

“That’s likely the only factor that will set it in actuality for me, is that I can go on YouTube and see that I was in that race and I received,” she explained. “I see battle. I see me battling versus the odds, and I see me not applying the fact that I’m at a smaller D1 school to cease me from attaining what I know I can reach.”


Melissa, 21, is slight of create at 5-3 and 118 pounds, particularly compared to the sprinters she competed against at the NCAA championships, though she’s as strong and outlined as she has ever been.

“Last calendar year when I went to the (out of doors) countrywide meet up with, I looked like a tiny child in contrast to the girls out there,” she claimed. So one particular prospective way to more boost is by gradual muscle mass development.

But she quickly squats two times her pounds and has an explosive electrical power-to-body weight ratio, Goodman stated, to add to the naturally quickly frequency of action that she brought to CCU. Her size of stride has improved significantly as properly.

“She’s only scratching the surface,” Goodman said.

Melissa hopes to access the NCAA outside championships in June for the 2nd straight year in the 100 and 200 races.

“As every person else was receiving to the complete and slowing down, she was buying up and pulling through, which also tells us — and this is thrilling — that she’s a far better 100-meter runner, so glance out for outside,” said CCU director of keep track of & subject Sandy Fowler.

A much more extensive-phrase intention is to established occasions that will qualify her for the 2024 U.S. Olympic Trials in progress of the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris.

“I believe Melissa has the opportunity to be an Olympic athlete,” Fowler stated. “I do not even query that with how quick she has arrive via, and she’s so humble I really do not know if she sees that however.”

God ready, Melvin Jefferson will be screaming as Melissa competes for a medal carrying pink, white and blue alternatively than teal and bronze.