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Kent State University student donates blood stem cells within a year of joining the registry

Aug 31, 2023 by Gift of Life Donor Story

In April 2022, Nicole was in the last weeks of high school when she and her friend Jordan were called down to the front office. A school staff member asked if they wanted to join the Gift of Life Marrow Registry through the Dr. Michael Osband Senior Swab program, which gives high school students who have turned 18 the option to join the registry. Being 18 years old, they both agreed to join. Those under 18 have the option to pre-register, and receive a reminder and a swab kit mailed to their home after their 18th birthday. 

“When we were asked if we wanted to swab and potentially save a life, I didn’t think twice about it,” said Nicole. “My great-grandmother had blood cancer. She was diagnosed in the 1980s and died a few months after her diagnosis. I think it’s great that we now have the ability to save a life.” 

Six months later, Nicole received a call from Gift of Life. 

“I called back as soon as I got off work,” said Nicole. “I was told that I was a match for a 55-year-old woman battling myelodysplastic syndrome in need of peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC). I was surprised by the short turnaround time – they told me that it was one of the fastest registrations–to–match they had seen. I was excited and it was important for me to donate, almost in memory of my great-grandmother. It felt even more impactful that it was a stranger.” 

After finishing the call with Gift of Life, Nicole called her parents and her friend Jordan whom she swabbed with. 

“Everyone was very supportive,” said Nicole. “Jordan was ecstatic that I had matched so soon!” 

After testing confirmed that Nicole was the best match for her recipient, travel arrangements were made for her to donate in Boca Raton, Fla. at the Adelson Collection Center. Nicole was allowed to bring one guest with her on her donation trip, and she brought her older sister Kayley. 

“I loved that I was donating in Boca Raton,” said Nicole. “It was definitely nicer weather compared to winter in Ohio! The hotel Gift of Life put us up in was really nice. A nurse came every morning to give me my Neupogen injection, and we had the rest of the day to ourselves. We spent some time at the pool, ate really good sushi, and spent one day at the beach. We definitely made the trip a fun one!”

On the day of her donation, a car service brought Nicole and Kayley to the Adelson Collection Center. 

“The staff were great, just genuinely good people,” said Nicole. “They talked me through the process and checked on me regularly. During my donation, Kayley and I watched a few movies, had some great food and snacks, and we played Mario Kart on the Nintendo Switch for a little bit. I was a little fatigued after my donation, but I was fully recovered within a couple days.” 

Nicole feels very fortunate that she was healthy enough to donate PBSC for someone in need. Nicole was called a few weeks after her donation and apprised of her recipient’s condition. 

“In between my donation and the update call, my dad passed away,” said Nicole. “It was really hard for me. But, when I answered the call and was told that the patient was alive, it was a good feeling that I was able to save someone despite losing my father at the same time. I called my grandmother, my dad’s mom, and told her that my recipient is alive, and she started crying and saying it’s a great thing that she was recovering.”

Nicole urges everyone to join the marrow registry. 

“Donating made me feel like I made an impact on someone’s life,” said Nicole. “The point of doing it is to help someone, to save their life, and being able to do that is something to take pride in.”

Nicole, 19, is a sophomore at Kent State University where she is majoring in business and minoring in non-profits. She lives in Ohio and is currently working in the restaurant industry. In her free time, Nicole enjoys lifting weights at the gym, going thrifting, and playing with her two dogs and three cats.