In March 2013, when DKMS held an office bone marrow donor registration event, Maria Merced welcomed the opportunity to swab her cheeks. “Working here helped me understand the importance of what we do,” said Maria, a Human Resources Generalist.
More than a year later, Maria got word that she was a potential match!
“I was very surprised,” Maria recalled. When she shared the news with her mom, Maria got another surprise: She learned that she wasn’t the first matching donor in the family -- her aunt had donated bone marrow many years before.
Once I realized it was really happening, I was a bit nervous,” she explained. “Then I thought, well if I needed help, I would hope that someone would consider doing this for me. I believe in the mission of our organization. Now, I’m living the mission.
On the day that she donated her stem cells, Maria passed the time by studying for the Professional in Human Resources (PHR) certification test. She also thought about the patient. “I knew that she was Latina, and that this donation would give her the best chance at living a healthy life,” said Maria. “I was hoping it would help her.”
Because of the nature of her work, Maria knows how crucial shared heritage can be for patients searching for a bone marrow match. Hispanics make up only about 10 percent of the registry, making it challenging for Latino patients to find a matching donor.
One of our main goals is to diversify the donor database to help more people with ethnic backgrounds find their match,” she explained. “Most people don’t realize the need.
After a short recovery, Maria returned to work. A few months later, she received a letter of gratitude from her patient. “For me, donating was a rewarding experience,” she said. “I would definitely do it again.”
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