Stem cell donation: Rachel’s story

July 15, 2015 at 2:04 pm

IMG_6022-smallWhen Rachel Aronson joined the national marrow donor registry with a roommate, she knew the odds were low anything would come of it — only 1 in 540 people on the registry actually donate.

Six years later, she got a call from BloodworksNW’s Bone Marrow Program saying that she might be a match for a patient with leukemia.

The Seattle resident and UW-alumna was still skeptical she would be selected until she got that final call, and reality sunk in — “I guess I’m doing this then!”

I was excited. The possibility of using your biological potential to save someone’s life at really no cost to yourself is an incredible opportunity.

Rachel was one of the 90% of donors who donate Peripheral Blood Stem Cells (PBSC) via apheresis, a special kind of blood donation that filtered out stem cells and returned the rest of her blood components, instead of the more intensive bone marrow donation.

There’s a misconception that you have to do surgery, which I’ve heard isn’t that bad but has a scary connotation for people.

On the day of donation, Rachel spent six hours at BloodworksNW’s Central Seattle location.

My husband stood by me and was moral support. We watched a lot of bad movies, and then it was over!


Rachel after her donation

Rachel got the opportunity to speak with her recipient after a year had passed, and found out they shared more than just an immune system.

Her name is Rachel also, and we’re both Jewish!

She learned that the other Rachel had been in treatment for a non-blood cancer, but as a side-effect of her treatment developed leukemia and needed a stem cell transplant to survive.

It such a powerful emotional experience talking to someone who’s life I had saved.

Rachel’s life isn’t the only that Rachel has impacted: she has become a regular blood donor as a result.

And she promotes joining the Be the Match registry, particularly with her friends who are of non-Caucasian descent. Because patients are most likely to find a compatible donor within their own ethnic group, a diverse registry of potential donors is important.

A lot of people don’t realize that it’s a small step to take that can have such a big impact. Given that the payoff is that someone lives another day, why wouldn’t you?

 Are you on the registry? Learn more about joining the national registry.