When Molly Olsen was in labor with her daughter Judith in 2006, one of the nurses at Swedish Ballard asked her if she wanted to donate cord blood. She agreed, signed the consent forms, and paid no attention to the collection while she bonded with her baby girl.
Molly didn’t even remember that she had donated Judith’s cord blood until she got the call that she’ll never forget in 2011.
It was the middle of the day. I was walking out to the car, putting my daughter in the car as well. The phone call was real quick: “it’s BloodworksNW. We wanted to let you know that the cord blood you donated has been matched with a 42-year-old man with leukemia.”
She thought at first that she was being asked to donate bone marrow; the situation didn’t hit her right away.
And then she realized the donation had a personal significance too.
I just thought of Michael, and I couldn’t believe that this thing I had done so offhandedly might have saved someone’s life.
Molly’s close friend and colleague Michael died at age 30 from leukemia, the first person in her adult life to pass away.
He was a very dynamic person, a writer and artist, and had just written a play. He made the most of his life, even knowing it was finite in a very extreme way.
Michael kept his illness a secret from Molly and his other friends until just before he went into the hospital; Molly was shocked and devastated when she found out. She recalls that he didn’t seem sick until he received a bone marrow transplant from an unrelated donor.
She moved to an apartment closer to his to help out after his transplant, and when she visited him in the hospital, Michael would take Polaroid pictures and put them up on his wall.
After Michael died in 1997, Molly moved to Seattle.
Today, she’s a Senior Program Manager for a mobile messaging company and enjoys every moment with her grade-schooler: “We have the most fun!” Molly says.
Judith understands that someone out there had a chance to live because of her.
She was a little young to make all the connections, but she knew that something good had happened because she was born. It was really a great moment.
Because cord blood donors are always anonymous, Molly and Judith will never know the outcome, but they’re happy they were able to bring hope to someone who needed help.
I was really grateful that you guys called me. It would have meant just as much to Michael.