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Los Angeles woman saves life of man battling Acute Myelogenous Leukemia

May 22, 2023 by Gift of Life Donor Story

When Danielle received the call that she was a match for a man in his mid-40s battling Acute Myelogenous Leukemia, she was excited, but also nervous. 

Danielle had joined the registry in 2014 at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity charity drive at Syracuse University. “Everyone in my sorority swabbed that year,” said Danielle. “Honestly, I didn’t think I would match with someone, but I wanted to do something good and join the registry despite that.”

Eight years later, in June 2022, Danielle was called as a match. “I, of course, said that I’d donate, but I was very nervous,” said Danielle. “I’ve been very fortunate to not have any serious medical problems and I had a slight fear of needles, so having the confirmatory typing blood draw and the apheresis procedure was a little nerve-racking.” 

Coincidentally, one of Danielle’s friends had recently donated Peripheral Blood Stem Cells (PBSC) and posted about it on social media. She reached out to him to find out more information about his experience. 

“Being able to talk to someone who had gone through the experience firsthand to tell me exactly what to expect – both good and bad – was what made me comfortable going through the process,” said Danielle. Gift of Life has many previous donors who are happy to talk to any upcoming donors about the process and their personal experience. 

Soon after, Danielle was on her way to Boca Raton, Fla. to donate at the Adelson Collection Center. Donors do not incur any expenses, so travel, accommodations and any needed medical exams are arranged by Gift of Life, and a meal stipend is provided. 

Collection of the stem cells is done while you are fully conscious. A needle is placed in each arm, with blood drawn from one arm, processed through a cell-separating (apheresis) machine that identifies and collects only the needed stem cells, then the remaining blood is returned to your other arm. Collection may take 4 to 6 hours, depending on the amount of cells needed.

Prior to collection, Danielle received five injections of Neupogen, a synthetic version of a naturally occurring protein found in the body. This is done to encourage blood stem cells to enter the blood stream. Neupogen has been used to prepare donors for more than 30 years. 

“During my Neupogen injections I felt a little fatigue, but was completely fine other than that,” said Danielle. “During my donation, I watched a few movies and TV shows on Netflix. After I was done, a car service brought me back to the super nice hotel, and I took a nap. The following day I felt almost 100 percent again.”

Danielle’s family and friends are very proud of her for donating. Of the 948 people who swabbed at the 2014 SAE recruitment drive, Danielle is one of only three who donated PBSC or bone marrow to date, and more are possible in the future. 

“The whole collection process isn’t as scary as I made it out be in my head,” says Danielle. “The people at Gift of Life want it to be as easy for you as possible and make sure you’re comfortable and taken care of. If you have the opportunity to join the registry, do it.” 

Danielle, 28, is Syracuse University alumna where she was a member of the Phi Sigma Sigma sorority. She now lives in Los Angeles where she works as a marketing manager. She spends her free time going on hikes, spending time at the beach, and trying new restaurants with friends. 

Danielle's swab kit was sponsored by the Shomer Achi Donor Circle