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Florida State University athletic trainer saves woman’s life with stem cell donation

Mar 19, 2024 by Gift of Life Donor Story

Jacob, a track and field athletic trainer at Florida State University, was at dinner with the cross country team at their pre-season camp in North Carolina when he got an unexpected text: “Jacob, you swabbed to join Gift of Life in 2019 at Clemson University. You have matched with a 60-year-old woman battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia and may be able to help save her life. To proceed, please respond Y.” 

“I must have looked surprised because everyone on the team was asking, ‘What is it?’” said Jacob. “When I told them I might be able to donate stem cells to a cancer patient, they were all excited and asked a bunch of questions: ‘Tell us about it! How did you sign up? What does it mean? Are you doing to do it?’ I gave them a little background about Gift of Life, and after that, how could I not do it?” 

Jacob was a cross country and track athlete at Clemson when he joined the registry.

Gift of Life Marrow Registry donor Jacob signed up to become a volunteer blood stem cell/marrow donor while a student at Clemson University, where he was on both the cross country and track teams. He is shown here running on grass during a cross-country meet and is wearing the purple and orange team uniform of Clemson.

Jacob running cross country for Clemson University. 

“I remember that Project Life Movement [a Gift of Life recruitment partner] came into our Student Action Committee meeting and I was on the advisory board,” he said. “They told us all about joining the registry, how transplants can save lives, and what the process is like if you match a person in need. I figured why not just do the swab? Maybe I could help someone.” 

For his donation, Gift of Life flew Jacob to South Florida and put him up at a resort on Delray Beach, near the collection center at the organization’s headquarters in Boca Raton. 

“Work was very understanding and accommodating, and I was able to schedule the donation right before winter break, so I didn’t miss out too much on work or team activities,” said Jacob. “Since I have family in the area, I was able to visit them.” 

Jacob was also impressed with the collection center itself, and his experience donating.

“The facility was awesome, the fancy reclining chair and TV were great, and the staff is super friendly and helpful, always checking to make sure you’re okay,” he said. “My donation day was shorter than I expected, I was there only about four hours, and the donation was only about three.” 

Being a donor can also bring a new perspective with it. 

“I’ve been lucky in my life so far to have no health problems, and as an athlete, I never had any major injuries,” said Jacob. “Donating puts into perspective what others might be dealing with, and how scary it is for them, how a health problem might affect your life and your family’s life. This was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up; donating stem cells was nothing compared to what the recipient is going through. If it works out, I would love to meet her someday.”

Jacob (left) is a Gift of Life Marrow Registry volunteer blood stem cell donor, who saved a woman's life in 2023 by donating cells for transplant to defeat leukemia. He works as an athletic trainer at Florida State University, and is shown here at a track meet coaching an FSU team member.

Jacob training a member of Florida State University's track team.

Jacob, 26, lives in Tallahassee, Fla., where he works as an athletic trainer at Florida State University. He graduated from Clemson University with a degree in Health Science and then earned his master’s degree in Sports Medicine at Texas A&M University. He enjoys being outdoors, running, exercising, swimming, and hiking, and while at home listens to music and looks for good binge-worthy shows.