Health It's Just A Cheek Swab

Part 2: I’m The Match, Now What?

(Read part 1 here)

I’m the match.  I’m THE match.  Whoa.  I don’t care how many times you go to a bone marrow drive, or how often you read about bone marrow donation or whatever, when someone says to you that YOU are the match for someone who needs exactly what you have in order to LIVE, that is enough to make you sit and say, “Holy cow.”  I was sitting at my desk.  The husband was sitting to my right.  My heart started to pound a little harder and I got a lump in my throat.  I didn’t actually start to cry, but it wasn’t too far off.  A gazillion (yes, that many) questions and thoughts started popping up in my head.  Who is this person?  Grown up?  Child?  Male?  Female?  Local?  Jewish?  (interestingly, Jewish was not the first thought that popped in my head but it did pop in)  Will it hurt?  When do they need me?  What do I have to do?  How can it be me?  Are they sure? Me? Really? Me? And over and over…ME?

As if Regina could hear me, she started to tell me a few things.  First of all, this is an anonymous donation.  I do not know the recipient, or anything about him (a male as it turns out) aside from his age (53), and might never know.  I do not know where he is.  It could be anywhere in the world. The next step (there will be many steps) was to speak with the person who would become my coordinator, Ana, and Sara (whose exact role I don’t remember). I agreed to speak to them both the next morning (Wednesday) at 10am. Regina would make sure I received my donor information packet by 10am, so that I would be prepared to speak to them (both at the same time…I imagined it to be like when I call my parent’s house and my father answers and then my mother picks up the extension and shouts questions and comments into the phone and they have weird side conversations about coffee and lunch). I heard myself saying, “Ok, no problem, I’m available whenever.”

The rest of the day passed in a fog and I already knew I am going to do this…whatever this entails…because it already feels true and right and like a part of me. There is little thinking involved, only a sense that I have been called to do something and here I am, ready. I don’t feel the least bit nervous. I feel almost impatient. I also feel a bit shy about discussing it with “others.” I speak to several people throughout the day; friends, family, etc. This is always on my mind. It is so big to me, but I don’t mention it to anyone. I don’t yet know what to say…the wheres, the whens, the hows…it is all still cloudy. At one point, I realize that it never occurs to me to really think about the pros and cons or whatever. It never occurs to me to discuss with anyone, including the husband, whether or not I will do this. The husband also takes it for granted that of course I will go ahead with it. We don’t know anything yet about the process, and yet I think that we are on the same wavelength from the beginning. It never seemed to be an option that I wouldn’t donate.

Much later in the process, my cousin mentioned to me that when he donated (also stem cells) through the New York Blood Center, his coordinator told him that many times when he calls people about being a potential match they hang up on them. Or say they did the cheek swab as a dare. My own coordinator on the day of my donation (John) told me that also. A dare? You did it as a DARE? You wasted TIME and RESOURCES never intending to donate life saving cells to someone on a DARE? That one was beyond my comprehension. Wow. Just wow. Really?

Regina told me that the next conversation would be important, as I would have both processes explained to me. Although this recipient’s medical team was requesting peripheral stem cell donation, traditional bone marrow donation would be discussed as well, in the unlikely event it became necessary. For the moment, I just had to wait to receive the material, and hear from Sara and Ana.  It was 5 days since the first call from Gail.

To Be Continued


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About the author

Alyssa Gilbert

Alyssa Gilbert

Alyssa lives in the Five Towns with her husband, four kids, 2 dogs and a cat. She loves all things zen and yoga and has just finished school to become a PT.

Alyssa encourages everyone to get their cheeks swabbed and potentially save another's life. For more info, please visit

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