In 2005, Bhairavi joined the Be The Match Registry® to see if she would be a match for her dear friend who had been diagnosed with leukemia. Like many others who join the registry, Bhairavi was hopeful that she would be a match for her friend. As time passed, she found out she had not matched her friend, whom she called her 11-year-old inspiration. But just three years later, Bhairavi was happy to receive a call from Be The Match®, informing her that she could be the one to help save the life of another young boy.
Getting the Call to Donate
The week Bhairavi received the call, she was finishing her Master’s thesis and preparing for finals. On the call, she was told that she was a potential match for a seven-year-old boy with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). With mixed emotions and a fear of the unknown, Bhairavi talked with her friends and family about this life-changing opportunity. After these discussions, she decided to go forward with additional testing to see if she could be this young boy’s marrow match.
Much to Bhairavi’s surprise, the test results came back and the doctor told her that she was a “perfect” match for this patient. Hearing this information, she thought of the friend who inspired her to join the registry three years earlier, and accepted to donate in honor of him.
The Donation—Feeling the Connection
Just two weeks after her graduation, Bhairavi donated peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC), one of two methods of donation, to a stranger—a little boy in need. Although she received little information about her recipient before the donation, Bhairavi felt connected to him.
Prior to PBSC donation, donors receive injections of a drug called filgrastim. These injections increase the number of blood forming cells in the donor’s bloodstream, and are taken for five days leading up to donation. For Bhairavi, these shots were worse than the actual donation. But remembering that the pain was only temporary, Bhairavi was able to keep her head up and move forward with donation.
Meeting her Recipient
A year after the donation, Bhairavi was contacted by her recipient’s family asking if she would like to connect*. They chatted via email for more than a year, and later decided to meet in person in Chicago. Two years later, Be The Match contacted Bhairavi again, asking if she would consider donating to her recipient for a second time. Without hesitation, Bhairavi agreed.
The Second Donation
The second PBSC donation was very similar to the first. Bhairavi arrived at the hospital early to prep for the procedure. Today, she describes the second donation as, “not as extensive or as painful” as the first. “I would compare [my experience] to running a marathon,” said Bevi. “You don’t know if you can keep going, but in the end you are really proud of yourself – It’s really rewarding."
Five Years Later – Life After Donation
Today Bhairavi is married and working as a Gerontologist (the study of the biological, psychological, and social aspects of aging). She lights up when telling others of her donation experience, and describes her journey in a very upbeat and positive manner. “The entire experience was life-changing,” said Bhairavi, “to know you have saved a life – it changes the way you look at things.”
By sharing so much with an individual she had never met before, Bhairavi said it brought her back down to earth. When asked if she would ever donate again in the future, Bhairavi responds whole-heartedly with, “absolutely!”
*A donor and patient may exchange contact information if the patient’s transplant center rules allow, it has been at least one year since transplant, and both donor and patient consent.