A Blizzard Didn’t Stop Him

January 28

With the health of a blood cancer patient at stake, Alfred Howard would not let a blizzard get in the way of donating his life-saving stem cells.

In January 2015, a massive snowstorm created treacherous road conditions and a travel ban in much of the Northeast. But that didn’t stop Alfred, 40, a Connecticut resident and former Navy seaman. He was ready, willing and able to do what was needed to make the donation happen on schedule.

I wanted to give someone a second chance at life, and we needed a group effort.

It took a combination of quick thinking, creativity and collaboration between the DKMS donor management team, emergency personnel and the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) to arrange for Alfred to be transported to a local hospital to prepare him for donation, and then to a nearby transplant center for stem cell collection.

“There was a lot of teamwork involved, and throughout it all Alfred was so calm, and so willing to roll with the changes,” said Hannah De Simone, Process Improvement Manager at DKMS.

Hannah explained that despite the fact that public transportation was shut down due to the blizzard, her team worked into the night to ensure that the donation went smoothly and successfully. Once the procedure was complete, Alfred’s donated stem cells were transported by plane across the Atlantic Ocean to help a blood cancer patient in Europe.

Two years earlier, when Alfred first joined the bone marrow registry, he never imagined he would become a match, or that he would navigate a blizzard in order to donate.

If someone in my family needed help like this, I would hope that they would get it, no matter what,” said Alfred. “I feel that I'm blessed, so why not help somebody else?

And, later in 2015, Alfred made time to donate his cells to the same patient again -- this time the weather was more accommodating!