Letters from stem cell recipients to thier anonymous donors are bringing cheer this holiday season. (Photo illustration by Black Press with photo from Why We Swab)

Letters from stem cell recipients to thier anonymous donors are bringing cheer this holiday season. (Photo illustration by Black Press with photo from Why We Swab)

Canadian stem cell recipients share heartwarming letters to anonymous donors

Why We Swab: Correspondence shared in awareness campaign to recruit more donors

Which would you prefer as a last-minute holiday gift? Stem cells, or anonymous correspondence from those whose life yours saved?

A national group of volunteers called Why We Swab is delivering the latter to encourage the former. They’ve launched a holiday campaign to raise awareness about stem cell donation by sharing heartwarming letters sent between recipients and anonymous donors.

“For many survivors of blood cancers, the best gift they ever received was a lifesaving donation from an altruistic stranger, somewhere across the world,” the volunteer group stated in a press release.

Eleven letters shared on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter between Dec. 15 and 20 attest to exactly that.

“They’re extremely powerful because they demonstrate how special and emotional the connection between a recipient and donor becomes after transplant,” said Gabriele Jagelaviciute, a medical student at Queens University who leads the volunteer team.

READ ALSO: Stem cell drive at UVic aims to find lifesaving donors for patients in need

“We aim to show the public the impact that a stem cell donation can have on a patient’s life, as well as their family members, friends, and community,” she said. “We hope that this holiday season we can inspire young individuals between the ages of 17 and 35 to sign up as stem cell donors to gift patients a second chance at life.”

Hematologist Warren Fingrut supervises the campaign while caring for patients with leukemia, lymphoma, and other blood, immune or metabolic diseases. Since matches are more common among those with similar ancestries, and racialized folks make up a minority of donors, the team is especially encouraging those of diverse backgrounds to donate.

READ ALSO: Most Black Canadians won’t find a stem cell donor in time; this group is working to change that

“It’s easy to sign up online. You fill out a form and are then mailed some cheek swabs, which you mail back. From there, you’re on the database until age 60, and could match to a patient in need anytime,” Fingrut said.

Those interested may register at the Canadian Blood Services website at blood.ca. For the full compilation of recipient letters to donors, visit Why We Swab’s Twitter page.


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