When Grant, the goalie for his college soccer team, went to a Student Athletic Advisory Committee (SAAC) meeting on September 14, 2019, he had no idea how meaningful that event would become for him and his family, as well as a stranger he has never met.
“These SAAC meetings involve people from each of the college’s teams,” said Grant. “Campus Coordinator Katie Fowler came in from Project Life Movement to show us how we could hold swabbing drives and add team members and fellow students to the registry.” Once she explained how easy the process is, Grant knew he wanted to join the registry.
“A friend and I went up to her after the presentation and asked if we could swab right then,” said Grant. “She only had a couple of kits with her, but gladly gave them to us.”
Grant was familiar with stem cell transplantation. When he was in middle school his grandfather was diagnosed with lymphoma. “At first they worried his age would not allow for a successful transplant,” said Grant. “But otherwise he was in great shape, so they decided to try an autologous transplant using his own stem cells. He fully recovered and lived another six years.”
Once a swab kit is completed, Gift of Life sends it to a laboratory for tissue typing. The volunteer donor’s Human Leukocyte Antigen profile is determined, and that profile goes into the registry. Using a special ID number, a donor’s profile is also shared with the worldwide registry. Grant’s profile was made active in the registry in November 2019, and just a month later, he was found as a match for a patient battling leukemia.
“I was so surprised to be called, first because I know the statistics say that it’s rare for any two people to match, and secondly because it happened so fast,” he said. “I called my family to tell them during dinner time and they were so excited. My grandmother was there – it was her husband who had lymphoma. She cried when she heard the news and said she felt like her husband was being honored though my donation.”
Grant, who is attending college in South Carolina, flew to Gift of Life’s in-house collection center to donate in early March, as the coronavirus pandemic was rapidly expanding and travel was becoming difficult. His parents were so excited they drove from his hometown in Albany, Ga. to Boca Raton, Fla. to be with him as his donated.
“Gift of Life did a great job, they gave me lots of options and made the process easy,” said Grant. “They made me feel special, gave me my favorite candy while I was donating, and put up my school banner and some soccer decorations in my pod.”
Not only was Grant identified as a match quickly, his stem cell collection went fast, too. The apheresis process typically takes four to six hours. Grant had an abundance of available stem cells, so his collection finished in three hours.
“Donating is a great experience, to give something so simple and save a life,” said Grant. “It’s almost nothing to you, but a whole life to someone else. Join the registry, and if you are called to donate, do it.”
Grant is majoring in physics and finance at Wofford College, and plans to attend graduate school for engineering. He is the goalkeeper on the soccer team, and in his free time enjoys working out, video gaming and visiting with friends.
Project Life Movement was founded in 1990 by a group of students at Davidson College to help add donors to the registry and save the lives of patients battling blood cancer. In 2018, Project Life Movement partnered with Gift of Life Marrow Registry to forward the two organizations’ shared goal of diversifying the worldwide registry. Today, Project Life Movement is involved with more than 65 universities and partners serving college campuses across the United States.