Sarah Scott, right, in the hospital during the bone marrow donation process. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Scott)
A woman’s Facebook post about donating bone marrow has gone viral after her friend posted it on Imgur.
“A friend of mine from college posted this the other day,” the caption says simply, but the message within the picture has earned more than 322,000 views and nearly 600 comments just one day after it was posted.
Donor Sarah Scott tells Yahoo Health she’s been amazed by all of the attention her act of kindness has received. “I had no idea that I would be receiving this type of attention,” she says. “I am so humbled by the entire experience.”
The 26-year-old says she was inspired to donate bone marrow four years ago after a friend posted information about the importance of donating and included a link for Be the Match, which manages the world’s largest bone marrow registry. She has a personal connection as well: When she was 17, her best friend’s mother, who she says was “like my own mother,” died from pancreatic cancer.
A bone marrow transplant is a potentially life-saving treatment for people with leukemia, lymphoma, and several other diseases, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. For the treatment, patients undergo chemotherapy or radiation to destroy their diseased bone marrow. That marrow is replaced with a bloodstream injection of a donor’s healthy cells, which then begin to multiply and function.
In order for a patient to accept the new cells, his or her tissue type needs to be as close a match as possible to the donor’s tissue type.
During the bone marrow donation process, blood is drawn from the donor’s arm, put into a machine where stem cells are separated, and returned to the donor’s body through the other arm, according to DoSomething.org. (The bone marrow replaces itself within six weeks.) Bone marrow cells can also be extracted from a person’s hipbone.
Scott signed up on Be the Match, and received a phone call from the organization last year that she was a match for a woman in her 50s. She says it came at the right time: “2014 was an extremely difficult year for me.”
Sarah Scott spent a year waiting to see if her bone marrow donation made a difference in a patient’s life. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Scott)
Last year, Scott says she left a toxic relationship and was no longer able to find someone to help with her student loan. She was forced to drop out of graduate school and lost her apartment, dogs, transportation, and job, which was contingent on her enrollment in school. “I remember being so broke that there was a period of almost three days that I didn’t even have a quarter to eat,” she says. “I spent the next few months struggling with my life and thinking that it was pathetic that I am in debt up to my eyeballs, with no degree to show for it. I felt trapped.”
But hearing that she was a match for a patient helped turn things around for her.
“I received the phone call … and thought to myself, ‘How can I be sitting here feeling this way when this woman and her entire group of loved ones would do anything within their means to make sure she lives?’” she says.
Scott was flown to Minnesota from her home in Salt Lake City twice because the health of her match had been quickly declining. The week before the actual donation, she was given injections twice a day for five days to increase her white blood cell count which, she was told, could cause her kidneys to burst if she didn’t donate marrow within a few days.
Luckily, she didn’t have a reaction to the drugs, but she did have to spend the night in the hospital.
Despite the time commitment and potential risks, Scott says she never thought about backing out. “When you experience death on such a tragic level, the thought of donating bone marrow isn’t a hassle, it’s an opportunity,” she says.
Scott says the donation process inspired her to make changes in her own life. She founded a grassroots political organization and says she’s “done everything in my power to make a difference in my life, and the life of others” since she donated.
Scott says she’s spent the last year wondering how the patient has been doing and whether her marrow worked, until she received a letter from her last week.
“I cried, and then I cried some more,” Scott recalls. “I spent the last year waiting and hoping to hear how she was doing, so that I could let her know the impact she had on me.”
Scott still doesn’t know the identity of the patient whose life she saved (confidentiality paperwork has to process first before they can exchange names) but says the letter gives her peace of mind, knowing that the patient is alive and well. “How amazing is that?” says Scott.
Nearly 20,000 people might benefit from a bone marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant each year, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
Interested in donating bone marrow? You can learn more about the process at Be the Match.
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