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A neonatal nurse steps up to donate blood stem cells

Brittany during her hospital stay for donating bone marrow

As a nurse caring for newborns in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), Brittany Clemmons is already an everyday hero. But in 2019, she went a step further and donated blood stem cells to a stranger in need. 

Joining the registry

Brittany first joined the Be The Match Registry® back in 2014, during a trip to the local mall. A donor recruitment event, sponsored by the William G. Pomeroy Foundation, was taking place that day. Since she had already signed up to be a blood donor, she figured signing up to be a blood stem cell donor felt like an easy ask. As a longtime partner of Be The Match®, the William G. Pomeroy Foundation works closely with us to grow the registry and recruit more ethnically diverse members.

The call to donate 

Years later, Brittany received a call from Be The Match saying that she was a potential match for a patient. Ultimately, she was not selected. As fate would have it, she ended up receiving a second call to donate in spring 2019. An adult woman needed a bone marrow transplant, and Brittany was a potential match for that patient. She said yes and never hesitated. “I knew it would end up helping someone, and that’s all that mattered,” she said. 

After the preparation work and labs went smoothly, she traveled to a hospital a few hours away to proceed with the donation. Most of the time, adult donors are asked to provide peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC), collected during a process similar to donating platelets or plasma. Brittany was part of the 15% that are asked to donate blood stem cells collected from bone marrow, which requires a surgical procedure. Marrow donors receive anesthesia and feel no pain during the donation. 

Brittany said recovery was simple and smooth, requiring only one night at the hospital. Her co-workers stepped up, too, covering her nursing shifts as needed. Brittany thought a lot about her bone marrow transplant recipient along the way, and the two had the opportunity to exchange messages. She thanks Be The Match for being so supportive throughout the donation process, always answering any questions she had. Would she do it all over again? “Absolutely,” Brittany said. 

Increasing access to donors 

There’s a big need right now for blood stem cell donors like Brittany. While White patients have an 80% chance of finding a fully matched, available donor on the registry, the odds shrink to just 29% for Black and African American patients. More Black and African American blood stem cell donors are needed to help improve these odds. 

We are incredibly grateful to the William G. Pomeroy Foundation—and to all our amazing donors, registry members and financial supporters. Last September, the William G. Pomeroy Foundation sponsored an incredible gift matching opportunity of up to $500,000 in recognition of World Marrow Donor Day September 17, and contributed an additional $300,000 in December. This tremendously impactful $800,000 in giving from the William G. Pomeroy Foundation is focused on expanding recruitment at Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

You can help provide hope to more patients by joining the Be The Match Registry or by making a contribution today. Funds cover the costs needed to add more people to the registry and pay for transportation, lodging, and other out-of-pocket expenses patients are burdened with during the transplant journey.