The call and family support
It wasn’t until the summer of 2000 that Dwight was called as a potential match for a patient. After completing further confirmatory blood tests, Dwight was told that he was the best possible match for a woman, and that he would be donating peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC)—one of the two methods of donation. “When I was chosen, I wanted to both yell and cry for joy for what I could do for this patient,” said Dwight. Family, friends, church, work—everyone was very supportive of Dwight’s decision to donate. During his confirmatory blood testing, he tried to lighten the mood by singing, “stem cell man, stem cell man, I wanna be a stem cell man!” Prior to Dwight’s donation, his colleagues even gave him a “Stem Cell Man” t-shirt to acknowledge the importance of his gift. Dwight was able to bring his family to the donation center to share in the experience and to support him through the donation.
The PBSC donation process
PBSC donation is a nonsurgical procedure (much like donating plasma or blood) that takes place in a blood center or outpatient hospital unit. On the four days leading up to Dwight’s donation and on his donation day, Dwight was given injections of a drug called filgrastim to stimulate stem cell growth. This is a part of all PBSC donations. “On the second day of injections,” said Dwight, “I could actually feel the stem cells multiplying!”
During the PBSC donation, Dwight’s blood was removed through a needle in one arm and passed through a machine that separated out the blood-forming cells. Dwight’s remaining blood was returned through his other arm. Typically, a donor’s blood-forming cells are back to their normal levels within 4 to 6 weeks.
Dwight’s message to registry members
“Don’t lose hope that you might donate some day,” said Dwight. “It may never come, it may come tomorrow—but it’s important to keep your contact information updated so you can be contacted if you’re a match.”
Editor’s note: The patient who received Dwight’s stem cells passed away just under a year after her transplant. Dwight still sees his donation as a positive experience today because he was able to give the patient hope and time. He would donate again in a heartbeat.