When people join the registry, Gift of Life explains to them that the chances of matching someone else are low which makes our stem cell donor Cameron a rare person – he has appeared in search results as a potential match for three different patients since he joined the registry.
“I joined the registry because my Resident Assistant at the freshman dorm was running the drive and said we could help people – I felt it was the least I could do,” said Cameron. “I was actually found as a match three times since joining the registry, but the first two did not make it all the way to donation.”
This time Cameron was both the best match for the patient – a woman in her early 40s battling histiocytic disorder – and was eager to help a stranger fight this rare, life-threatening blood disease. As a future nurse, he already knew something about the donation process.
“I was familiar with the terminology and what was going to happen, which relaxed me,” he said. “My family was supportive, and mom even came along with me on the trip to the collection center. My school was supportive, too, being flexible about my classes during the week when I donated.”
On their “donation vacation” Gift of Life gave Cameron and his mom a great hotel room in Delray Beach where they were able to walk to the ocean, visit restaurants, and enjoy the area.
Someone asked me, ‘What made you want to do this?’ and my answer was if my recipient can put up with weeks, months, or even years of illness, I can put up with travel for a couple days in order to help someone live a better quality of life.
The morning of his donation, a driver picked them up from the hotel and brought them to the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Gift of Life-Be The Match Collection Center at our headquarters location. It happened to be the week of World Marrow Donor Day – the same week that, three years earlier, Cameron had joined the registry.
Once Cameron was settled in his donor pod, the apheresis process collected his stem cells, drawing blood from one arm, separating out the needed cells, and returning the remaining blood to his other arm. He felt very well cared for during his donation.
“I mainly watched Netflix, there’s a nice set up with the comfy chair and a multitude of things to watch,” said Cameron. “Donating was actually very simple, I followed all the recommendations as best I could, and I gave a lot of cells in a short period of time. Afterwards, I was back to normal in a day or two.”
“My family was all ears wanting to hear about my experience,” said Cameron. “They want to know if I’ll find out my recipient’s outcome.”
Updates on recipient health status come from the recipient’s transplant facility to Gift of Life, and each transplant center has its own policy about notifications. Typically Gift of Life will receive an update in about a month, and then again at six months, and we relay that information to donors.
While he awaits word about his recipient, Cameron hopes their health is recovering and they will be able to resume their life.
“I am doing something so small in the grand scheme of things,” said Cameron. “Someone asked me, ‘What made you want to do this?’ and my answer was if my recipient can put up with weeks, months or even years of illness, I can put up with some body aches and travel for a couple days in order to help someone live a better quality of life. I just wish them the best, they are the true story, I’m just a small part of their journey.”
Cameron is a nursing student at the West Virginia University. In his free time he enjoys sports events and playing recreationally, and during the pandemic has started playing golf.