For ten hours over a two-day period, NBC Miami meteorologist Shiri Spear was hooked up to a pheresis machine at Community Blood Centers in Lauderhill.
For five days leading up to this, Spear had to get a daily injection to increase the stem cells in her blood.
“There were some aches and pains that came along with some of the shots, but it felt a lot like some of the aches and pains that come along with the flu,” she said.
The cause makes it all worthwhile. Spear is donating her peripheral blood stem cells to an anonymous cancer patient with a form of lymphoma.
“It’s more than a person, it’s a life, it’s a family, and I feel honored to be able to give that back to someone to help save a life.”
Spear signed up to be a bone marrow donor five years ago “and to be perfectly honest it was something I forgot about until I got a call several months ago to say that I was the match for someone. I know it’s a 40-year-old male. I know that he has Hodgkin’s (lymphoma). In a year maybe I’ll get to meet him when I’m allowed to request to, so we’ll see.”
Seventy-year-old Joe Scaduto of Palm Beach Gardens was on the receiving end of a similar donation three years ago at University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.
He took his donor from Canada there to meet his doctor and show her where he was transplanted with her cells.
“She saved my life. She literally saved my life,” he said.
Scauduto had been suffering with AML, an aggressive form of leukemia.
“My doctor made the pronouncement that I’m cured you don’t hear that in cancer,” he said. “So what happens is you become all of your donor cells all of them. Including- I have female chromosomes.”
Dr. Bruce Lenes, the medical director at Community Blood Centers explained that “the stem cell is needed to replenish all of the blood cells in the patient after chemotherapy.”
In most cases, this process is replacing the need to take bone marrow directly from a donor’s hip. Spear’s blood is taken from her right arm then a machine separates the components.
All of the stem cells go up into a collection bag. The other parts of her blood are recombined then pumped back into her body through her left arm. When Spear is done with her donation her cells will be sent in a cooler directly to the recipient and infused within 48 hours.
She would like potential donors to consider this: “Think about the people that you love and then imagine that they were sick and that you couldn’t help them, and depending on that stranger, and you could be that stranger. You could help save a life, and that’s an incredible feeling.”