State of Emergency: Getting the marrow there


The following content is part of our new Behind The Match series, an ongoing effort to provide a behind-the-scenes look at marrow transplant and some of the lesser-known, yet crucial ways we deliver cures for blood cancer patients.

Each year, we encounter emergency weather situations from blizzards to icy roads to hurricanes and tornadoes. Even under these extreme circumstances, Be The Match ensures that donors are able to get to their donations. Once the donation has occurred, Be The Match also ensures that our trained couriers get the life-saving cells to wherever the patient is waiting to receive their transplant, within 48 hours, anywhere in the world. Sometimes, it takes planes, trains and automobiles in order for the marrow to safely arrive at the final destination.

The Be The Match emergency preparedness team consists of 4 full time staff who devote their time to organizational preparedness and coordinate a cross functional team of about 20 staff from many departments that ensure all marrow donors, couriers, patients and staff safely make it to their destination during an emergency. The team was put in place in 2005 shortly before Hurricane Katrina, one of the worst natural disasters in history. The team continually watches the weather, natural disasters and other worldwide events—from conflicts such as that in Syria to transportation strikes in Paris—the team also receives tips from staff and partners on the ground. Once a storm system has been identified, the team verifies that it is a legitimate threat and will then pull together the decision team— a more robust team of individuals who work with transplant centers, donor centers, couriers and other logistical components. This team pulls specialized reports by location to ensure proper precautions are put in place and alternate plans are made.

The logistics team will look at which flights could potentially be affected and will often times ensure every courier has 1-2 back up flights in case there are delays or cancellations. In the event a donor or a courier is not able to fly out, alternate transportation will be put in place to ensure dangerous delays do not occur—delays that could affect the health and well being of the patient waiting for their transplant. A recent example of the great work done by this team was this past February, when winter storms plagued the East Coast. A courier needed to get to Atlanta, but the airport was forced to close due to the ice storms that hit the city. The courier was instead re-routed to Orlando and then driven to Atlanta in order to make the life-saving delivery.

With all of the hard work and planning that this team does, there has not been one patient who did not eventually receive their life-saving cells because of an emergency situation. When an emergency occurs, Be The Match is ready for the job.

11 Responses to “State of Emergency: Getting the marrow there”

  1. Jody Zachary says:

    How does one become a courier?

  2. Marla Grant says:

    So proud and grateful to be part of your great organization, helping meet your mission objectives. Your travel team is amazing.

  3. Cynthia Vickers says:

    It is amazing how it all comes together, so honored to be a part of it all!!

  4. Brenda Shisslak says:


    I work full-time but I would love to volunteer to be a courier on weekends. I can do Friday nights thru Sunday evenings.

    email ( or call 781-929-0450

    • admin says:

      Hi Brenda – Thank you for your support! Please send your contact information to and a Be The Match representative will get in touch with you with more information about becoming a courier. Thanks!

  5. Jan Z says:

    I was a donor whose harvest was done on 9/13/01, two days after the tragedy of 9/11. There was concern about getting my product to the recipient, who was already being prepped to receive it. I never knew how it happened but everything went as scheduled. Thank you to everyone involved who works behind the scenes.

  6. Meg says:

    That is amazing! A HUGE thank you to all of your couriers, staff, coordinators, etc. who work day and night (and in dangerous conditions!) to make it happen. I’m in awe.

  7. Wow!thanks to these people who work so hard to ensure lives are saved!

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