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Spirit of Giving: A Michigan, N.D. Woman Provides a Potentially Lifesaving Donation

Spirit of Giving: A Michigan, N.D. Woman Provides a Potentially Lifesaving Donation

The winter holidays help bring out the best in each of us. It is so much fun to plan what gifts we are giving our loved ones and to watch their faces light up. Generosity isn’t always for the people you know. Sometimes it’s for those you do not. A Michigan, North Dakota woman is potentially giving a child the gift of life.

“I’m feeling a little scared and excited,” Makayla Fleming said. “I don’t know if I’ve fully wrapped my head around it.”

It’s a day Makayla Fleming only dreamed of. At the end of 2021, she was getting ready to donate peripheral blood stem cells, a method of collecting blood-forming cells for bone marrow transplants.

Registering For the Ultimate Gift

Currently in her mid-20s, Fleming registered with Be The Match while she was a student at North Dakota State University. A magician hosted a show for the students and encouraged them to register.

“You just fill out a packet and swab your mouth,” Fleming said. “My roommate was doing it and I wasn’t sure. Since I was there, I figured I’d do it too.”

Fleming originally registered in 2018. In 2020 she was notified she was a match for someone, but her doctors decided it wasn’t a good time for her to donate.

Once again in Fall of 2021, Makayla received the call.

“When I found out they wanted me to donate bone marrow for a small child, it hit home for me,” Fleming said. “I have two little girls and I wanted to do it for them.”

Be The Match asked Altru to administer shots of Filgrastim, a medication to help her produce extra white blood cells to aid in the process of donating peripheral blood stem cells.

Altru Helps with Donation

The donation process was smooth for Fleming, and much less intimidating than she imagined.

“It’s not as scary as I thought,” she said. “I’m not willing to do anything medical. I’ve never been able to donate blood.”

But the team at Altru was able to put her at ease.

“The Altru Team is super nice,” Fleming said. “You can tell they’re super excited about the whole process. It’s been fun.”

A Rare Match

Donations through Be The Match are a rare event at Altru. Only 30% of patients will find a bone marrow donor within their family.

“Helping with this donation is very exciting,” said Amy Werre, a chemotherapy infusion nurse at Altru Cancer Center. “It pulls at your heart strings knowing she’s going to make somebody’s Christmas.”

The peripheral blood stem cells donation could be a life-saving gift.

“If it does take, then you know you did something good for someone,” Fleming said.

Spirit of Giving

She spent between 4 and 6 hours completing the donation process. Her donation was then sent to the small child to help replace their blood forming cells with Fleming’s cells, so that the patient can potentially be cured of leukemia.

It’s the ultimate gift, during the holiday season. Fleming is encouraging others to find it in their hearts to join the national registry to see if they can match a patient in need.

“I’ve been able to handle it really well,” said Fleming. “If you’re scared, you can do it. It’s not that hard.”

To register with Be The Match, visit their website.