Breaking records, saving lives: The story of CCU’s Melissa Jefferson

Breaking records, saving lives: The story of CCU’s Melissa Jefferson

CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - Every time she slips on the spikes and comes out of the blocks Melissa Jefferson has one mindset.

“As long as there is someone else faster out there, there’s a chance for me to become better than who I am right now,” said Coastal Carolina University track athlete Melissa Jefferson.

After a decorated high school career at Carvers Bay, Melissa arrived at Coastal.

She immediately made an impact thanks to a stellar indoor campaign as a freshman, which led to her being named Sun Belt Conference newcomer and freshman of the year.

“Me, I’m just little, old me. So it’s like little, old me getting these awards, it’s like wow,” Jefferson said of her accolades. “I’m a small-town girl, from the country, going to school in the woods. It means a lot.”

One year later, Melissa shines for the Chants. In a tight race on April 10th, she etched her name in the Coastal record books with a time of 11.27 seconds in the 100 meters.

It’s another achievement to an already storied career. However, they’re achievements one special person in her life almost didn’t live to see.

“In early 2018, my dad was diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome,” said Jefferson.

The blood disease, also known as MDS, is where one’s bone marrow doesn’t produce enough white blood cells. Melissa’s father Melvin needed a donor to save his life.

“They decided to test me at the last minute,” admitted Jefferson. “I remember telling my mom I had a feeling it was going to be me. One day I came home from band practice and I found out that it was me.”

At just 17 years old as the youngest of six, Melissa was a perfect match.

As a self-proclaimed daddy’s girl, there was never a doubt that she was going to go through with it.

“They always made sure that I knew that I didn’t have to do this but I was like, ‘It’s my dad, I’m going to do it because I want him around for a long time,” said Jefferson.

Melissa started the donation process in September of 2018. While not an easy procedure, it was ultimately successful.

“It was kind of mentally challenging for me because I’m just 17 but God is good and He saw me and my family through and today my dad is still 100% donor cells,” said Jefferson.

Through all of this, Melissa says she’s learned one valuable lesson to help her both on and off the track.

“Pain is temporary,” she said. “When you’re out here on the track and you’re running and you get to a rep and you’re like ‘Can I do this? I’m tired’ you just find that dog in you and you keep going.”

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