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Mother donates cells for medical research twice in six months

Mar 20, 2023 by Gift of Life Donor Story

In April 2013, Grace was at a recruitment drive organized by a friend during cocktail hour at a local bar when she swabbed her cheek to join the marrow registry. 

More than 10 years later, Grace received a call from Gift of Life asking if she would donate Mononuclear cells (MNC) for medical research. MNC are requested for this purpose more often than peripheral blood stem cells because they represent a variety of cell types including white blood cells. Much of the most exciting medical research going on today is in cellular therapies, with many organizations developing advanced treatments to help in the fight against cancer and other diseases. This research often begins with a cell donor whose specific Human Leukocyte Antigen type is needed for the development of a particular medication.

Grace was excited at the prospect of donating for research purposes. 

“I used to joke that every year I would get a call from Gift of Life asking, 'what’s your address, can we update your contact info?'” said Grace. “When I picked up this year and they said they were calling about a research opportunity, I was like, ‘What? Wait! This is really crazy!’”

“I’m aware there are a lot of cancers that affect pediatric patients,” said Grace. “So I feel like, as a mom, anything I can do to improve science for my son and for the future is something I want to be a part of.”

Grace came to the Adelson Collection Center located at Gift of Life's headquarters in Boca Raton, Fla. to donate MNC. Her travel was coordinated and provided for by Gift of Life as donors incur no costs for donating. 

I only have to sit for a few hours and could potentially have an effect on hundreds or thousands of lives. It’s a small sacrifice.

“During donation, I just relaxed,” said Grace. “One of my friends from New York came with me. I work full time and I’m a mom so I just enjoyed getting a chance to relax and spend time with a friend. Being forced to disconnect was good, I spent time catching up with my friends, talked on the phone, watched videos, caught up on some emails. It was a great experience.”

A few months after the first donation, Grace was contacted to request if she could donate again, and she accepted. 

“They needed my specific HLA type,” said Grace. “The way I looked at it is, I might be a little uncomfortable for a few hours, but for people who are suffering from these forms of cancer, that’s their everyday situation. I only have to sit for a few hours and could potentially have an effect on hundreds or thousands of lives. It’s a small sacrifice. The donations lasted about three or four hours each time. Everything went smoothly for me.”

Having donated twice for medical research, Grace is now getting involved in Gift of Life’s New York City Young Professionals Committee. 

“What’s been cool is that the more I talk about this, the more people are interested,” said Grace. “I’ve referred people to the registry. It’s a really easy process. I’m also getting involved in the Young Professionals Committee. I’ve been busy working on my career the past 10 to 12 years, and this was a good reminder that I should get involved in my community more.”

Grace, 34, lives in New York with her husband and 2-year-old son. She is a graduate of the University of Connecticut, and now works for Disney. Grace is involved with Gift of Life's Young Professionals Committee in New York City, and  in her free time enjoys exploring parks and museums with her family, and she is a huge sports fan.  

Grace's swab kit was sponsored by the In Honor of Wendy Siegel Donor Circle.