New York woman donates stem cells during hurricane and power outage
Tani was well prepared when she arrived at Hackensack Medical Center to donate stem cells for a blood cancer patient, a man in his 70s diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome. Even though Hurricane Isaias was barreling towards New Jersey and expected to cross the state that day, she did not want to miss the opportunity to help her recipient.
This wasn’t the first time Tani was called as a potential donor – in 2019 she was a match for a different cancer patient, but that donation did not go forward.
“When Gift of Life called me again, I wasn’t sure at first if it was for the same patient,” said Tani, who joined the registry in 2018. “When I realized I had matched a second person I felt very fortunate I was called twice, and I was so excited to be able donate this time. If I have the ability to help someone, I felt it was important to do it.”
Even though the pandemic was going on, Tani and her parents were comfortable that the Hackensack Medical Center had extra precautions in place to protect her. Because of her small veins she knew the nurses would be using a central line instead of collecting the stem cells from her arm. Since her hands would be free, she brought her watercolors and paper with her and prepared for a quiet day of painting.
“I love to paint and am working on mastering watercolors, so I wanted to bring something to pass the time,” she said. Tani has been drawing and painting since she was a small child, and her skill is evident.
But just as her collection was nearing completion, the bad weather from the hurricane knocked out the electricity. Although the hospital’s backup generators kicked in, at that point the nurses felt it was best to finish the process so the stem cell courier could begin the journey to the transplant center.
“I’m looking forward to hearing news about my recipient,” said Tani. “Honestly, for me there is nothing like helping someone else, I’m so happy I donated and it was a great experience. If you have the opportunity to join the registry, this is a great way to give to someone who needs your help.”
Tani is pursuing a career in cardiac medical stenography at the Center for Allied Health Education and looks forward to working in the medical field. In her free time, besides painting she enjoys cooking and is teaching herself piano.