Celebrating Donate Life Month

April 24, 2020 at 10:35 am

April is officially national Donate Life Month, an opportunity to bring attention to the importance of registering to be an organ (and bone marrow) donor!

While most people know Stanford Blood Center (SBC) for the blood we collect and provide to hospital patients, few realize that another very important arm of our organization is our Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) lab, which provides critical testing to make sure that donated organs, tissue and marrow are compatible with and will be accepted by the transplant recipients. In addition to supporting bone marrow transplants, our HLA lab supports heart, lung, kidney, liver, pancreas, small bowel and multi-organ (kidney-pancreas, heart-lung, etc.) transplants.

Though SBC does not handle direct donations of organ, tissue or marrow, we are proud to promote this critical process and have provided some information below on a variety of ways that you can be involved in supporting he needs of transplant patients!


Join the Bone Marrow Registry

According to Be The Match, the primary bone marrow registry in the U.S., “thousands of patients with blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma, sickle cell anemia or other life-threatening diseases depend on the Be The Match Registry” to find a bone marrow donor that is a genetic match — which can be more challenging than you’d think. Even with over a million registered donors, there are still patients who cannot find a donor whose genetics are a close enough match (think the work SBC does in the HLA lab) to the patient. That’s why it’s important that the registry contains a wide variety of potential donors.

While chances are you will never be called on in your lifetime to donate marrow (only about 1 in 430 registrants do), simply by signing up for the registry, you are providing an extra opportunity for patients in need to find the life-saving donation they need. Joining the registry is an easy process, the bulk of which can be completed online at bethematch.org. You will also be asked to provide a cheek swab, which will be used to provide HLA matching information for the registry database.

Want to see the incredible impact your donation could have? Review this inspiring blog written about Nicole Porto, one of Stanford Health Care’s very own bone marrow recipients. Nicole’s long and emotional battle with aplastic anemia and the second chance she received from her transplant not only transformed her life, but also led her to pursue a new career in health care, where she now works to encourage compassion and understanding for other patients in hospital environments.


Register as a Deceased Organ Donor

According to Donate Life, the primary organ and tissue donor registry in the U.S., there are currently 113,000 individuals waiting for critical organ transplants and, about every 10 minutes, someone new is added to that waiting list. Deceased organ donation is a simple but incredibly important way to help meet these patients’ needs. Through deceased organ donation, those who have passed away give their organs to those whose life depends on a transplant. As Donate Life states beautifully on their website, “At the end of your life, you can give life to others.

Though Donate Life reports that 95% of people in the U.S. say that they would consent to be a deceased organ or tissue donor, only 58% in the U.S. are registered. Secure registration takes less than one minute online at donatelife.net. Registration is also frequently completed at the DMV when you get your license: A pink dot containing the word “donor” on your California driver’s license indicates you are already signed up as a deceased donor prospect.

Of those 113,000 individuals requiring a lifesaving transplant, roughly 4,000 are in need of a heart. One individual who used to be on that waiting list but who has since received his transplant is Mohan Mahal, a man who was so transformed by his near-death experience and second shot at life that he has gone on to dedicate his career to helping others, particularly by addressing homelessness in India. You can read Mohan’s story here on the SBC blog.


Learn More About Becoming a Living Organ Donor

Two of the most common types of living organ donation are kidney (since most individual have two and can donate the other) and liver (for which you would donate a part of your liver, and it would grow back in time). According to Donate Life, 82% of people waiting for an organ transplant require a kidney, and 13% require a liver.

Through living organ donation, patients in need are often able to get the life-saving organs they require much faster and at a better quality than if the organ were from a deceased donor — of which there are unfortunately not enough. In fact, roughly 8,000 people die each year because they cannot get the organ they need in time, be that from a living or deceased donor.

Since living organ donation is a serious procedure, anyone interested in becoming a donor is encouraged to reach out to a local transplant center for more information. However, donatelife.net/living-donation is a great place to start!

Lives Transformed by Transplantation

Next-Generation Sequencing

By Deepti Sharma, PhD, Clinical Laboratory Scientist; Tamara A. Vayntrub, Project Manager; Bing Melody Zhang, MD, MS, FCAP, Assistant Director, HLA Lab  SBC is now using next-generation sequencing (NGS) as the basis for its HLA typing method for both bone marrow and stem cell as well as solid organ transplants. The testing has already made…

The Intricacies of Hospital and HLA Lab Communications

By Tamara Vayntrub, Project Manager, HLA Lab SBC’s Histocompatibility & Immunogenetics Laboratory (HLA Lab) is a leader in the field of transplantation and genetics. The HLA Lab supports patients by using state-of-the-art technology to perform solid organ and bone marrow transplantation testing, as well as testing for factors associated with disease risk and drug resistance/susceptibility….

The History of Heart Transplants: Stanford Innovation

By Marcelo Fernández-Viña, PhD, D (ABHI), Medical Director of SBC’s Histocompatibility & Immunogenetics Laboratory (HLA Lab) A few months ago for national Donate Life Month, we shared information on our SBC blog (HemoBLOGin) about organ donation and the critical role SBC’s Histocompatibility & Immunogenetics Laboratory (HLA Lab) plays in making sure donated organs can be…

Nicole’s Story: Fighting Aplastic Anemia with “Little Bags of Life”

In May of 2013, Nicole Porto was thriving in all aspects of life. She had built up a life for herself that she was proud of. Physically, she had been training for the Brooklyn Half Marathon and felt extremely strong; socially, she had a great group of friends in her home of New York; and…

Mohan’s Story: “A Change of Heart”

Mr. Manmohan (Mohan) Mahal claims it has taken him over twenty years to understand his “journey.” It is because of this journey that he is now driven to give back to the world and inspire others. But first, he needed a change of heart. Born in Amritsar, India, Mohan lived most of his life in New Delhi and…

The Kindness of Strangers: Robin Beresford’s Patient Story

Robin Beresford has many goals, most of which surround helping others. She is a former nurse, a licensed physician’s assistant, a marriage and family therapist, and is in the process of completing her PhD in Depth Psychology. So several years ago it came as a shock when Robin was the one who needed help. This…

Kelvin Yu — His Second Life

Kelvin Yu thought it was just an ordinary day. He went to his job as a Project Manager at Kaiser Engineers, left his office, and set out for a lunchtime walk around Lake Merritt. He had no idea that within hours, he would end up in the ICU. He had no idea that this was…

Heart to Heart – From Heart Transplant To Living Life With Purpose 

The adventure began soon after their meeting. Carmela and Eric Gries met in 1984 while attending college. Not long after they met and became a couple, they decided to take a year off from school to drive across the country and back. They’ve now been married for 31 years, have three beautiful children, and are…

Young Heart Beats The Odds—Galen Dahl’s Story

Galen “G” Dahl, 13, is much like any other 7th grader. He loves skiing, math, jumping on his trampoline, video games and his dog, Flash. He is a self-confessed Harry Potter fanatic who enjoys hanging out with his buddies. One would never know just by looking at him that underneath the shirt he wore to…

A Bone Marrow Transplant and a New Lease on Life

In 2013, Michael, a recent high school graduate, was excited to start the next chapter in his life. He had applied to a trade school and looked forward to pursuing a career in welding when he came down with what he thought was a bad cold. Unfortunately, it turned out to be much more severe…

A New Liver, a New Lease on Life for Little Alma

On June 10, 2014, after a long and complicated labor, baby Alma’s journey began. Her entrance into the world was not an easy one. Nearing the end of mother Amy’s pregnancy, doctors expressed concerns that the baby had stopped growing and determined that labor should be induced. A Pitocin IV drip was started but Alma…