Donor Stories

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Clemson Student Donates Bone Marrow to Save Life During the Coronavirus Pandemic

It was during her sophomore year at Clemson University that Cyan made the decision leave the women’s soccer team to focus on academics. As a member of the women’s soccer team, Cyan was frequently at the Nieri Family Student-Athlete Enrichment Center to study and meet with her advisors, but after leaving the team she did not find her having the need to visit the facility. Looking back on her experience, she is not sure why she was there the day that Project Life Movement was hosting a tabling event in the Center when she joined the donor registry, but she believes it was no coincidence.

Cyan joined the global registry on April 3, 2019 and received an email on January 16, 2020 stating that she was a potential match for a blood cancer patient in-need of a marrow transplant. After filling out the various health forms, completing a blood test, and traveling to Georgetown University Medstar Hospital for a complete physical exam, Cyan was ready to proceed with the donation process. However, she was told on March 18th that the patient was not stable enough
for a transplant and that the donation would have to be postponed to early May.

During the first week of May, Cyan and a friend traveled back to Georgetown University
Medstar Hospital for the donation. When asked about the procedure Cyan stated, “I was fairly nervous leading up to the transplant because my friend could not come into the hospital with me due to the pandemic, so I had to go alone. However, the nurses and doctors were super awesome and helped me feel more comfortable. If ever requested, I would do the donation again in a heartbeat!” Cyan has recovered from her life-saving donation and is excited to share her
experience with others and is looking forward to meeting her patient in the future.

A Volunteer For Life

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In the spring of 2019, Keyen Green, then a junior at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA, stopped by to visit a friend who was volunteering at an on-campus drive for Project Life Movement. PLM is a non-profit organization whose mission is to build the global stem cell/marrow registry with young, healthy and diverse college students.  At the time, Keyen didn’t know much about stem cell donation or the need for it. But after listening to her friend explain why she should join the registry, she did.

A year later, in March of 2020, Keyen received a call that she was a potential match for a 61-year-old woman battling Multiple Myeloma. Keyen was surprised. She had forgotten that she had even joined the registry. After listening to the donation coordinator at the transplant center of Gift of Life (PLM’s partner) explain the process to her, her first phone call was to Kellie Harper, the women’s basketball coach at the University of Tennessee.  Why Kellie Harper?

Keyen had played basketball at Liberty and was completing her undergraduate degree there when the call came in. But due to a medical redshirt, she had one year of eligibility remaining; and she had decided she wanted to play at the University of Tennessee for the 2020-21 season. That the nickname of her new school was the “Volunteers” was perfectly appropriate.  Keyen wanted to Kellie Harper’s opinion, but she also wanted to check on something specific about the donation process. “The donation coordinator explained to me in order to prep my body for the stem cell donation, I was going to have to take the drug, Filgrastim. I wanted to make sure that this was an approved drug with the NCAA.” Not only did Coach Harper support her decision to donate, but she assured Keyen that taking Filgrastim would not be an issue with the NCAA.

When Keyen first told her mother about the donation, her mother was hesitant. But after reviewing all of the educational documents provided to Keyen from Gift of Life, she felt comfortable with her daughter’s decision. After seeing Keyen’s excitement and commitment to try to help save the life of this total stranger, she become excited about this life-saving opportunity for her daughter. Given how difficult it is for African-Americans to find their miracle match because of the low number of African-Americans on the global registry, Keyen’s mom was proud that her daughter was able to help someone in need. Despite the unsettling times caused by the COVID -19 crisis, Keyen, a native of Orlando, FL, made the drive to the Gift of Life transplant center in Boca Raton with her mother and her sister. The donation was successful.

Says Kellie Harper: “Keyen is the ultimate volunteer! There are not many opportunities for the average person to save a life.  On the surface, it sounds great to be a donor. However, following through with the procedure is a major commitment, especially during the tough times we are living in right now. Keyen demonstrated her selflessness that will hopefully impact and save another life.  I am supportive and proud of her decision.”

Keyen cannot wait to one day meet her recipient. She has already planned the meeting: on the basketball court at the University of Tennessee! Come this fall, Keyen will officially be a Tennessee Volunteer, but from the time she joined the registry in 2019 she became a volunteer for life.