In my recently self-published memoir, The Focused Fight, on page 172 I mention that if an age qualifying person donates saliva through a cheek swab, they could eventually become a bone marrow donor. There is a 1 in 430 chance to donate blood or marrow to save someone’s life. On Thursday, June 10, 2021, a born and bred Crofton, Maryland, 29 year-old lovely young lady by the name of Christine Flanagan, donated her blood and plasma (PBSC or peripheral blood stem cells) for a child with cancer. Her efforts in sitting in the hot seat at Georgetown University Hospital manufacturing sunshine through her blood donation...was all to save a life!
The same blood-forming cells that are found in the bone marrow are also found in the circulating (peripheral) blood. The only detail Christine knows and shared is that the recipient is a 16 year old girl living in the United States with a diagnosis of ALL (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia—same as Ryan’s). She told me that our family’s story and Ryan’s cancer journey inspired her to do the cheek swab at University of Maryland Baltimore County Campus (UMBC) donor drive, as well as the free Chick-fil-A sandwich coupon given to every student that walked through the clinic doors. Free food will catapult a starving college student to donate a quick cheek swab hands down. No one at that age realizes they could be called up for duty despite the free sandwich giveaway. When Crofton had the huge bone-marrow drive in 2004, Christine was 12 years old then and not old enough to be in the registry (need to be 18 years old to register).
Christine was a PBSC donor (blood removed from one arm and then after apheresis/through a machine) the blood goes back into the other arm) instead of a bone marrow donor. She revealed that her procedure took (5) hours, a lot less than the typical donation of close to (8) hours. Apparently, she has good polys (large white and red blood cells - especially for a woman). Christine further explained that for (5) days leading up to her blood procedure, she had to be given injections of filgrastim to increase the number of blood-forming cells/stem cells in her bloodstream. She admitted that the shots were the hardest part compared to the donation, but was extremely honored that she was a great match for someone, somewhere.
The entire process was about two months. Christine was first notified on April 1, 2021 that she was a potential match. Further testing was needed to confirm she was a good and viable candidate. When she was processed into the program, time passed quickly until her donation this past week.
Our family has known Christine and the rest of the Flanagan family since we moved to Crofton in 1996. She is one of five children born to her parents, Georgia and Richard. She is the second oldest of three girls, then two boys followed up to round out the crew. They are all awesome and we’ve remained close to them throughout the years. Her dad, Rich, in fact, has three Guinness Book of World Records on a wheelie/one wheel (bicycle). He dedicated one of his rides to Ryan in May of 2016. If you’d like to read more about this feat - please click on my older blogpost. https://quiltsfromtheheart.blogspot.com/search?q=richard+flanagan
All the Flanagan kids are great athletes. Christine and our daughter, Olivia, played on the same local soccer for a couple of years, as well as swam on the local pool's swim team. A grade ahead of Olivia, Christine graduated high school in 2009 and then graduated from UMBC in 2013 with her degree in psychology. She currently works for the Applied Physics Lab in Columbia, Maryland, as a financial manager. She loves her job and is good at it too. She currently lives in Annapolis, Maryland, with a couple of roommates and her dog, Cliff, a German Shepard mix. She added she has had a wonderful childhood and is enjoying her life and adventure at every turn. Her greatest joy is being Aunt ‘Tine (pronounced Teen) to five nieces and nephews (some cannot pronounce Christine!).
If my family is excited and proud about Christine’s recent PBSC donation, her family is off the charts happy and very proud of her too! Who wouldn’t be?
Due to Be The Match’s https://bethematch.org/ time constraints on when a donor and recipient can meet up (after one year from transplant), they are, in fact, allowed to write cards and notes to each other anonymously through their cancer centers. Christine plans on doing just that—keeping in touch. She added that she will wait patiently through the next nine months because after that time period ends, she will be able to get an update on her recipient.
I hope and pray this all will be a miracle! When they meet up eventually, my hope is through Christine’s willingness to donate and create sunshine for someone else, she will be able to see how her donation brought sunshine (life) into a 16 year old girl with a new lease on life!
|Christine with her Red Stem Cells|
|Red stem cells and White Plasma (recipient needed plasma too)|
|Christine and Cliffy|