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Small business owner travels back home to donate cells for medical research

Jun 20, 2023 by Gift of Life Donor Story

While in Tel Aviv, Israel on her Birthright Israel trip in 2018, Ellie saw a presentation by Gift of Life ambassadors asking people to join the marrow registry. 

“It was a couple of people who came and spoke to us about Gift of Life and they told us that, if we wanted to, we could swab our cheeks,” said Ellie. “It was a really simple process. They said it can provide a bunch of resources to people in need. We were all onboard immediately.”

Four years later, Ellie received a call from Gift of Life informing her that she had matched for a specific tissue type needed for the development of a particular medication. Mononuclear cells are often requested for this purpose as they represent a variety of cell types. 

“I was in my apartment when I received the call,” said Ellie. “She explained that my genes were great for a research opportunity and they they’d fly me out to Boca Raton, which is where I happen to be from, and she told me all about the procedure. For me it wasn’t a question. How could I not donate?”

On the day of her collection, a car service brought Ellie and her sister, whom she brought for support, to the Adelson Collection Center. 

“The collection center was beautiful, peaceful, and clean,” said Ellie. “The staff was really supportive and checked in on me and provided me anything I needed. My sister and I watched a Netflix movie and, part way through, I was getting a little tired and I closed my eyes for a little bit. We had a catered lunch and snacks, too. I’d do it again in a second.” 

Donating cells for medical research has the potential to save many lives. For Ellie, donating has put many things into perspective for her. 

“I think that donating has changed me,” said Ellie. “I think that not many people participate in things like this, and, because of that, it’s important to share and tell these stories and connect with other people about what Gift of Life is doing. I do want to continue to get involved with the organization and other opportunities like this. I feel like educating people about the process is really important and it’s a good way to get more people involved.”

“I would say to future donors that the process is absolutely so easy and it’s fun, in a weird sense,” she said. “I feel like it’s important to debunk the misconceptions about donating. It’s not tumultuous, it’s not a long recovery, it doesn’t take a lot of effort.”

Ellie, 25, is a graduate of University of Southern California where she received her Bachelor’s in communications and a Master’s in social entrepreneurship. She is also a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. Originally from Boca Raton, Ellie now lives in Los Angeles, Calif. where she started a sustainable ecommerce platform. In her free time, Ellie enjoys traveling and spending time with family and friends. 

Eliana’s swab kit was sponsored by the Adelson Family Foundation.