It's a Match: Mercy Nurse's Bone Marrow Saves Stranger's Life

February 22, 2019

ST. LOUIS - Mollie Ring is a nurse at the Cardinals Kids Cancer Center, and caring for pediatric cancer and hematology patients is her passion. So, it's only natural that she wants to make sure those patients have everything they need. When one patient was having trouble finding a bone marrow match, Ring jumped in. 

"I registered for an at-home kit and received it in less than a week," Ring said. "The actual swab took less than 15 minutes and I sent it in the mail the next day."

The likelihood of Ring matching the local patient in need was rare, but her sample was entered into a database of others needing bone marrow. Ring was notified she was a potential match for a patient in another city and she had multiple lab draws and tests to ensure she was indeed a match.

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Mollie Ring, RN, flew to Washington, D.C. for the donation one day, flew back the next and returned to work within the week.

In January, Ring got the notification she was a close match and would need additional labs to begin the bone marrow donation process. In order to determine how close of a match the donor is with a patient a test called HLA typing is done. The higher the ranking out of 10 the more success it is for the patient. Ring was a 10/10 perfect match for the patient. 

"I spoke with our Mercy Kids oncologist and he said the odds of being a 10/10 match for someone is around one in a million, and it's even more rare to find an unrelated donor that's a perfect match," Ring noted.

Because her match was an adult, the process was more like donating platelets. Ring had neupogen injections four days before the donation and one on the day of. 

"It's the same medicine we administer to patients during treatment to improve their white blood cells count," Ring said. "For me, it was used to increase my stem cell production."

When she arrived in D.C., she was hooked up to a pheresis machine. The IV in one arm took her blood and pheresis machine stripped out her stem cells and the IV in the other arm returned the remaining blood. The entire process took only four hours.

The nurses told Ring that she donated a little more than 600 million cells within the bag and the patient only needed half of that.

"My DNA will soon be part of someone else's and she will celebrate her 're-birth' day, as they call it," Ring commented. 

While Ring wasn't able to meet the recipient, she did find out her cells went to a 30-year-old female with acute myeloid leukemia. If both sides agree, Ring could meet the recipient in the future.

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