Stem Cell Donation Changes Two Lives

Be a Donor! Surgeon operating image.

 Garrett Stackman with stem cell recipient image.
Garrett Stackman, right, with stem cell recipient Jim Briggs.

It took Garrett Stackman of Potomac, Md., six hours attached to a centrifuge machine to provide enough stem cells to save the life of a man who was then a stranger to him.

Jim Briggs of New York was losing his battle against acute myelogenous leukemia when the National Marrow Donor list determined Stackman was a near match, tracked him down and asked if he was still willing to be part of the donor program he had signed up for years before.

"If by 'part of the program' you mean I go through a minor inconvenience to save someone's life, then yes," Stackman told the caller.

Stackman had signed up for the National Bone Marrow donor list years before in hopes of helping his wife's co-worker, who needed a donor. He wasn't a match, but remained on the list. After he agreed to try to help Briggs, he underwent a series of tests to make sure he could donate. Then, he received five days of injections to boost his stem cell production. On the fourth day, Stackman said he felt like he had the flu but was otherwise fine.

On the fifth day, he spent six hours having blood drawn from his right arm, circulated through a centrifuge machine to remove the stem cells, and inserted back into his left arm. Stackman said his own recovery was quick.

He followed the progress of the recipient through NIH and after a year, both he and the Briggs signed releases so they could meet.

In November, 2008, Stackman met Briggs and his family at a restaurant near DuPont Circle in Washington, D.C.

Stackman describes the meeting as a "life event."

"It was all positive," he said.

Stackman said he hopes his story will inspire others to become donors.

"It's one of the more important things I'll do in my life," he said.

Date Last Reviewed:  May 2017

Did You Know?

  • The number of people waiting for a donated organ in the United States surpassed 100,000 for the first time on October 6, 2008.
  • About 75 percent of those awaiting organs need kidneys—most commonly transplanted organ.
  • Each year, more than 10,000 people with life-threatening diseases need bone marrow or cord blood transplants.
  • Only 30 percent of 10,000 people have a relative who is a suitable donor.