On The Road As A Stem Cell Courier

Even in times of the Covid-19 crisis, life-saving blood stem cells are brought to patients - by committed people like Maria.

Last updated: 02/05/2021
Maria from Cologne works at DKMS and works on a voluntary basis as a stem cell courier

Even in times of the Covid-19 crisis, life-saving blood stem cells are brought to patients - by committed people like Maria

Maria Schmiing is a DKMS employee and has also been a volunteer stem cell courier for about two years. A few days ago, she took a transplant from Germany to the United States - a particularly difficult challenge in times of the Corona crisis. Currently, entry to the US is only possible because DKMS, with the support of the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP/Be the Match), has obtained a special permit for stem cell couriers to enter the country - so that patients can receive urgently needed transplants.

"It was through an acquaintance of mine that I became aware of it (becoming a courier) several years ago,” Maria said. “She is a teacher and carries out stem cell transports during the school holidays - I was immediately enthusiastic about it and signed up for it," says Maria Schmiing from Cologne. She applied to Ontime Onboard Courier GmbH, one of the transport companies that DKMS works with to bring life-saving blood stem cells to the recipients.

Blood stem cell couriers like Maria are currently in great demand to ensure that blood stem cell and bone marrow donations reach their recipients all over the world safely, even during the Corona crisis.

"The procedure for a courier mission is actually always the same," Maria explained. "During the briefing the day before, we go through all documents together and the entire itinerary is discussed. Every important detail is marked and addressed."

But something is different at the moment: the couriers must carry a special permit that allows them to enter the US. "This must be presented upon entry and exit."

The next stop for Maria was the collection center the next morning. There she received the life-saving blood stem cells from specially trained staff. These had previously been collected from a DKMS donor and prepared for transport. All documents and data were double checked based on the 4 eye principle before the transplant was handed over. "We especially look at the donor number and compare it, because we have to make sure that the patient receives the right transplant".

Afterwards Maria could start her journey. Stem cell couriers are allowed one additional piece of hand luggage only to be able to stay flexible on the way. "Most important are the blood stem cells or the bone marrow. We must not lose sight of the transplant during the entire journey. I look after this suitcase like my own personal treasure, like a mother who looks after her children. I am aware of the responsibility I carry and this stays with me until I have delivered the blood stem cells safely to the patient's clinic."

Waiting for the departure to the USA

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