ICOM Student Donates Stem Cells to Blood Cancer Patient

When Madison Summers, a fourth-year student at ICOM, was called to potentially save a stranger’s life, she was shocked and surprised, to say the least.

“I got on the registry in 2021 and kind of forgot about it,” Student Doctor Summers said. “I never expected that I would be matched with someone.”

Madison Summers, OMS-IV

Nearly two years after joining the National Marrow Donor Program, Summers was contacted in March of 2023 and notified that she had been identified as a potential donor for a woman battling Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS) — a form of blood cancer. The two strangers were paired through Be the Match — the largest marrow registry in the world — which helps those with blood cancers like leukemia, lymphoma and sickle cell anemia find life-saving marrow donors.

“The care team took a detailed health history, collected more blood, ran some additional tests, and a few months later, it was confirmed that I was the best match for this patient,” Summers said.

Summers flew to Seattle to make the donation and says Be The Match made the process extremely easy. From organizing appointments, to booking flights and lodging, and even providing transportation and food, the Be The Match team handled all of the logistics so Summers could focus on the procedure.

Madison Summers, OMS-IV

“I did five days of injections leading up to the donation day to ensure my cell counts were high enough for the needs of the patient,” Summers said. “I had some minor aches and bone pain, but it paid off because my white blood cell count was seven times the upper limit of normal. My body was working overtime to make sure we got enough stem cells for the transplant.”

Summers credits her time on campus in playing a vital role in her donation. What started as an ordinary day eventually resulted in Summers donating peripheral blood stem cells two years later. She joined the National Marrow Donor Program during a “Be the Match” registry event on campus, organized by fellow fourth-year student, Student Doctor Luci Schroeder.

“For the last two years, I have been hosting ‘Be the Match’ registry events at ICOM to allow students to donate buccal swabs and join the National Marrow Donor Program,” Schroeder said. “Madison’s altruistic act of kindness not only saved a life, but also reminds us of the incredible power we hold within ourselves to make a difference.”

To join the registry, head here.

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