Special Report: The Gift of Life

CULLMAN, Ala. (WHNT) — There are so many people in the United States that need bone marrow transplants. However, the number of patients who need a match is larger than the number of people who are willing to donate. Stephenie Glasscock put herself on the National Bone Marrow Registry, hoping to give someone the gift of life.”I just had the urge to sign up, ” said Glasscock. “I didn’t know why but I thought that I’ve got to do this.” Stephenie put herself on the registry at a “Be the Match” bone marrow drive in Birmingham.  “It was very simple,” she said.  “I just went to the drive and they talked to me briefly and said all we need to do is swab your cheek and that’s what we did, just swabbed it and I went into the registry.”In January of 2012, Glasscock received the call that the had been waiting for.  “It was a 3-year-old boy, it was an international donation so he’s somewhere in the world.”It didn’t matter where he was because Stephenie was going to help him and he needed her to. “Not only was I a match, I was the only match,” she said.

Stephenie went through with the donation and she gave her stem cells to a little boy that she had never met.  “I did receive a card from them months later,” she said.  “It was probably one of the best things I had ever gotten.  I know I did my part, I did what I could, but it just didn’t seem like enough because it’s someone’s life.”

There are two ways that a person can donate – either by a peripheral blood stem cell donation or an actual marrow donation.  “A bone marrow, the donor is put to sleep and bone marrow aspirate is taken,” said Dr. Marshall Schreeder, an oncologist with Clearview Cancer Institute.  “In stem cells, the donor is on a plasmapheresis machine similar to that of someone who is giving platelets.”

The recipient’s doctor will decide which method is best for their patient.  In Stephenie’s case, her match needed her stem cells.  “I mean I was weak,” said Glasscock.  “That was the only thing that I experienced but I think a lot of that could have been emotional.”

Stephenie said that donating was much easier than she could have ever expected and that it was completely worth it.  “It’s a quick process and because of the little time that I spent, maybe he is okay,” she said.

All you need to be on the National Bone Marrow Registry is a simple mouth swab.  “You have the ability to save someone else’s life for very little inconvenience to your own,” said Dr. Schreeder.  “It’s really a phenomenal feeling.”

Stephenie is still on the registry, and she said she would do it again in a heartbeat.

“I’d do it right now, I wouldn’t hesitate,” said Glasscock.  “I wouldn’t think about it one bit.”

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