Georgia Tech Student Makes Life-Saving Bone Marrow Donation After Swabbing Her Cheek on Campus

Sophie Heiman got a call on her way to her new co-op that she’d matched with a leukemia patient.

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Evan Atkinson, Institute Communications

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Sophie Heiman got a call on her way to her new co-op that she’d matched with a leukemia patient.

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Sophie Heiman got a call on her way to her new co-op that she’d matched with a leukemia patient.

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Ten seconds on Georgia Tech’s campus eventually led to a lifesaving donation hundreds of miles away in Ohio. That’s how long Sophie Heiman needed to swab her cheek on Tech Green last fall. The sample of cells was then mailed to a lab for testing.

But it was months later that Sophie actually had the chance to save a stranger’s life.

Sophie swabbed during the Fall 2018 semester. An organization called Be The Match was accepting samples on campus. The largest and most diverse marrow registry system in the world, Be The Match is operated by the National Marrow Donor Program.

Months passed, and classes and exams came and went. Sophie accepted a spring co-op position with Ethicon, a subsidiary company of Johnson & Johnson that develops surgical sutures and other medical devices. She was driving to Ohio when she received a text message saying she was a match for a leukemia patient.

“To be honest, I’d forgotten I’d done the swab,” she explains. “I immediately called back.”

Sophie worked with Be The Match to identify the closest hospital where she could undergo the marrow donation procedure. They located one in Cincinnati.

Typically, the surgery consists of liquid bone marrow being extracted from the pelvic bone. Most donors go home the same day or the next morning. “You have nothing to be afraid of,” she says, noting that even the side effects were minimal.

Because of the anonymous nature of the donation, Sophie will have to wait a full year before she can meet the person who received her bone marrow, but she has received a letter from the recipient — who is alive and doing well. If they both agree, they can meet in person in March. Sophie is looking forward to it.

“If you are that person, you can give someone life and that is just incredible.” Now she’s encouraging others to join the bone marrow registry. “I think that everyone should go get a cheek swab done as fast as they can,” Sophie says. “The odds may be small that you would actually match, but what is the risk if you have the chance to help save another person’s life?”

Click this link for more information on Be The Match and bone marrow donation.

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Student, donation, bone marrow transplant, Be The Match
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  • Created By: Evan Atkinson
  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created On: Oct 17, 2019 - 3:43pm
  • Last Updated: Oct 18, 2019 - 10:24am