Raise $75 for Swim for Life and you could win a kayak!

July 22, 2015 at 2:31 pm


Single, stable kayak seeks active, fun-loving companion. Must be willing to raise $75 dollars or more for Swim for Life. Enjoys the outdoors and spotting dragonflies, bald eagles, osprey, kingfishers, houseboats, sailboats, floatplanes, and psychedelic sunsets. Do you have strong, sculpted shoulders? Let’s make beautiful adventures together!

Swim for Life is August 19! Dozens of teams of four swimmers and a kayaker will swim 2 1/5 miles across Lake Washington from Medina Beach Park to Madison Park for a great cause.

This year’s swim raises money for both BloodworksNW’s Bone Marrow and Cord Blood programs. The stem cells in bone marrow and infant’s umbilical cord blood can be used to treat blood cancers, sickle cell anemia, and other diseases, but over 70% of patients in need of stem cell transplants do not have a match within their family. That’s why growing the bone marrow registry and increasing the size of public cord blood banks is so important.

The funds raised at Swim for Life will help expand our community cord blood bank and facilitate matches made with bone marrow/stem cell donors in our area.

This year, we’re again adding a little incentive for participants to raise money. Anyone who raises $75 or more for the event by August 12 will be entered into a drawing for a brand new Future Beach Fusion 10 kayak and cart.

This eye-catching kayak features a padded seat, cup holder, adjustable footrest, generous storage hatch, and multi-channel hull for your total comfort and stability on the water. You’ll turn heads with each stroke!

Interested? We’d love to have you join! Learn more about Swim for Life at swimforlife.bloodworksnw.org

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.

Completing the circle: Sara donates bone marrow

April 1, 2015 at 3:09 pm


Not many people experience both sides of the bone marrow registry: having the life of the loved one saved by an anonymous donor only to repay the favor by donating to a stranger.

Sara Rose Hansen’s father, Dan, had a lump removed from behind his ear in 2006. The growth turned out to be benign, but surgeons discovered cancerous lymph cells in the process — “a one-hour surgery ended up being six-hour surgery,” he says.

They also found a tumor in his abdomen and put him through radiation and chemotherapy. The treatment shrunk the tumor, and Dan was cancer-free for six years.

And then it came back – a mass was growing around my heart. It was big. My whole left side chest cavity was full of lymphatic fluid. I couldn’t even climb the stairs.

Chemo again took care of the growth, but destroyed Dan’s bone marrow in the process — his doctors at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance told him that he would need a bone marrow transplant to survive.

Dan’s body was too weak for an autologous transplant, so Sara, her brother, and Dan’s 9 siblings were all tested to see whether they might be a match for him, since HLA markers are genetic.

The closest out of the entire group was just a 5/10 match — 70% of all patients who need a transplant don’t have a matched donor in their family. Sara says,

 I remember thinking, ‘hope could be lost.’

Fortunately, a 26-year-old man in Germany matched Dan 10/10; Dan was able to receive the lifesaving transplant he needed in 2012.

Because Sara, a longtime blood donor who also donated her son’s cord blood, wasn’t a match for her father, she joined the registry to see if she might be a match for someone else.

I’ve always hoped I would get the call.

And then I did.

Less than two years later, Sara received a call from Bloodworks Northwest’s Bone Marrow team that she might be a match for a 48-year-old patient with leukemia as she was pulling into her dad’s driveway to grab brunch on her day off.

When I got out of the car and finished the phone call, I was kinda shocked still and I told him I had gotten the call from the registry. We both started to cry and had a big hug. And he said, ‘that’s really powerful and I hope it works out for him and for you.’


Dan cautioned her not to be too “stoked,” because it would take another couple of months to find out if she was really a match — “He’s always my voice of reason about everything.” In this time, she thought about the patient and how similar his circumstances were to her dad’s:

Does this man have a daughter my age who wasn’t a good match? There could be somebody in my exact situation who’s waiting for good news.

Then it happened: she was selected to donate for this patient.

It was just too divine! It’s the ultimate paying forward.

Dan’s life is finally returning to normal, and he plans to retire in the next few years. His fight against cancer made him realize that, “I want to do what I want to do. It’s time to coast.” If his donor consents, Sara and Dan plan on visiting him in Germany.

Sara hopes that his success will rub off on the recipient of her cells.

I’m just so happy to be involved with someone else’s journey. I’m hoping that the momentum behind our story is going to somehow give those cells extra positivity and good vibes, and I’m hoping that [my dad’s] success story is somehow going to fuel this person to do well in this process.

Dan wouldn’t be here without the selflessness of another person, and encourages everyone who is eligible to join the registry.

If they could just imagine how life giving it is, and how it changes people’s lives. It’s an extension of life. The process is not that horrible — if people knew it wasn’t super scary, they would probably do it.

Sara adds,

And I would also tell them, because people bristle at the thought of donating bone marrow because there’s still this stigma of hip core, and ‘I’m going to lose time at work,’ and ‘I might get sick,’ and people don’t realize that 80% of the time it’s just a week of injections and a blood draw. If more people knew that, more people would join.

Staci’s Bone Marrow Donation and Golf Tournament

November 4, 2014 at 8:35 am


Staci Book joined Be The Match at the Big Climb in 2009.

I got the phone call four years later.

Staci was a match for a 59-year-old man with myelodysplastic syndrome, a disease where the bone marrow fails to produce blood cells of normal quality and/or quantity.

Though she had a very rare reaction to the medication given prior to the donation to increase cell count, Staci found the overall experience to be very positive: “it’s exuberating, saving a life.”

Staci’s donation could have ended there, but she wanted to do more to support Puget Sound Blood Center’s Bone Marrow Program.

This year, I made a New Year’s resolution where every three months, I would give back. I was donating and looking at the electronics. I asked, ‘how do people donate and be specific about what they need to provide?

What we needed most was a blanket warmer. Warm blankets are a comfort to donors, whose lifesaving efforts require reclining on the donation bed for several hours, and the current piece of equipment was more than 30 years old and wearing out.

Staci had hosted a charity golf tournament for breast cancer a few years ago, and decided to do it again this summer to raise money for a replacement.

It got bigger than I anticipated — I had 44 people that helped give back to PSBC.

All in all, the tournament raised $3,474 — enough for a new blanket warmer!


Staci, left, presents the check

The recipient of Staci’s donation is currently doing well — her cells engrafted, and he is recovering and returning to his pre-transplant activities. Staci knows what she would tell him if he contacts her.

Happy birthday. If I get a chance to meet them, that means they hit their year mark. Happy Birthday.

When people ask Staci about bone marrow donation, she tells them the following:

It isn’t painful. It’s not. There are anomalies out there, I was one, but take the time to educate yourself. Everyone has the right to say no, but everyone has the responsibility to give back somehow.

Learn more about joining the Be The Match registry.

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