When I was 8 years-old, a girl named Jacquiea “Kiki” Brown moved to my town and joined our church. We quickly became best friends. Her mom was a nurse and explained to the church’s youth group that Kiki had sickle cell. At the time, I didn’t completely understand what sickle cell was. Kiki was in and out of the hospital and I remember crying every time I visited her. She would be the one comforting me and telling me everything would be OK. When we were 15, she got really sick and needed a bone marrow transplant. A year later, Kiki passed away. I felt so helpless at that time because there was nothing I could have done to save her. But when I turned 18, I joined the bone marrow registry in her honor at a drive held at my college, Wingate University.
I went on with my life, enjoying school and playing basketball at Wingate. In 2014, I got the call that I was a potential match for an 8-year-old girl with sickle cell. Initially I was shocked. I thought, “Is this really happening?” Then I said, “I’m doing this! If I can donate, then I’m doing it.” I have always lived by the motto “If you can, then you must,” so this was the perfect opportunity to do just that.
August 4, 2014, the day of my procedure, is a day that I will never forget. I did the PBSC (peripheral blood stem cells) donation and the process took about four hours. Afterwards, I was really tired and had flu-like symptoms, but nothing too serious. Two days later I was back to my normal self.
I received updates from the patient and a year later I was able to contact her. Rosemarie was doing great and was thrilled to talk to me. I found out that she lived in New York City, not even 10 blocks from where my sister lived! In October of 2015, I was able to finally meet the beautiful Rosemarie. She was now 10 and had no signs of sickle cell in her system.
God used me to do his work, and I feel blessed by the work I was allowed to do.