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A Blood Stem Cell Donor Calls on the LGBTQIA+ Community to Join the Registry to Save Lives

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Mitch | Photos courtesy of NMDP
blood-stem cell-donor-nmdp
Sponsored By:
Mitch | Photos courtesy of NMDP

If you had the opportunity to save a life, would you? 

Mitch didn’t hesitate when he received the call asking him to help a patient in Australia who needed a life-saving blood stem cell transplant. He was excited to support that patient by donating his blood stem cells in 2022. 

Four years earlier, Mitch had signed up for the blood stem cell donor registry by swabbing his cheeks and sending his sample to be added to the list of potential donors. The registry is run by NMDP℠, a global nonprofit managing the world’s most diverse blood stem cell registry. The organization, formerly Be The Match®, matches patients with donors and supports them throughout the transplant process. 

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Mitch knows NMDP well because he’s been working there since 2019. He runs the day-to-day operations of the company’s donor engagement team, ensuring donors have positive experiences while providing the best possible patient outcomes. 

Back when he signed up for the registry, though, Mitch, a proud gay man, wasn’t sure gay donors were allowed. He didn’t know that for nearly a decade, gay men and others in the LGBTQIA+ community have been eligible to join the NMDP℠ Registry and donate. Anyone in good health and aged 18 to 40 can sign up for the registry and won’t be asked about their sexual orientation since that doesn’t matter when it comes to finding the best possible match for a patient. 

Mitch felt good about signing up, explaining, “One thing I know is that my community, we want to help people.”  

Cool experience 

In 2020, two years after Mitch had registered as a donor, he got the call that changed his life—on his birthday. NMDP told him he was a potential match for a patient who needed a blood stem cell transplant. He was shocked and excited, describing the moment as “a really surreal, cool experience.”

Additional testing confirmed Mitch was the best match, but the patient wasn’t ready to undergo the transplant. Two years later, however, everything fell into place, and Mitch was able to start preparing. He needed injections of filgrastim, a drug that increases the production of blood stem cells. Luckily, his partner, Ruben, a pharmacist, administered most of the injections to Mitch at their home. During the five days he received these injections, Mitch experienced mild discomfort, including headaches, fatigue and back pain.

Next, Mitch traveled out of state to donate his blood stem cells. The process was very smooth. He took a four-hour nap after the donation and was back to his routine after that. 

Embracing pride 

Mitch started a Pride employee resource group at NMDP and credits the organization with being a welcoming, supportive environment. 

“I’ve never felt like I needed to leave part of myself at the door, coming to work, where I can be my crazy, eccentric self,” he said. “I crack my jokes, and I talk about my partner and our family.” 

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Giving back 

Mitch hasn’t connected with the person who received his blood stem cells. In Australia, there’s a two-year waiting period after a transplant, and the patient can decide whether to meet their donor.

Still, Mitch is honored to have been a blood stem cell donor, and he encourages others in the LGBTQIA+ community to register as donors, too. 

“As a community, this is our chance to help someone in need,” he said. “There’s someone who you have a chance of potentially being that one match for, someone to save their life. And it is absolutely remarkable.”

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