Hosting a Stem Cell Donor Drive Can Save A Local Life

Shira Klein is fighting for her life while she looks for a stem cell donor.

Shira Klein of Marlboro was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2010. She has experienced diagnosis, remission and relapse just in the last two years. Now, Shira and her family are reaching out to the country in hopes of finding a stem cell donor match to help save her life.

Shira's husband, Justin Klein, jumped into action and created Smiles4Shira, a non-profit group dedicated to funding donor drives to not only help find a match for Shira, but for the thousands just like Shira looking for a match. And just as the name implies, everyone is fighting to keep a smile on Shira's face.

For every one in Shira's support group that is working hard to find a match, a stranger steps up to the plate as well. Through the Smiles4Shira Facebook page, people have been asking how they can help.

People like Briana Taylor, President of the Student Nurses Association at Brookdale Community College, said she was moved by Shira's story and has made a goal to get every member of the nurses association into the national marrow and stem cell registry this semester.

Hosting a drive can yield results like Smiles4Shira had on Oct. 7 in Marlboro, when 587 people were swabbed a little over six hours.

How to hold a drive

Smiles4Shira has a team of volunteers ready to guide you through an easy and rewarding hosting gig.

If you are interested in holding a drive in the area, please email drives4shira@gmail.com with:

  • Name and contact of your driver leader
  • Date/Time
  • Location 

Upcoming New Jersey drives:

  • Oct. 13 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Arch Brow Bar in Shrewsbury
  • Oct. 13 at 11 a.m. at Korporate Kids Learning Center in Cedar Grove
  • Oct. 14 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Trinity Restaurant in Keyport
  • Oct. 14 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Dance Q in South Brunswick
  • Oct. 14 from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Marlboro Jewish Center
  • Oct. 21 from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at 2 Chicks With Chocolate in South River
  • Oct. 30 at 6 p.m. at the Think Tank for Moms Wellness Night
  • Nov. 3 at 1 p.m. at Denny's Children's Wear in Marlboro
  • Nov. 11 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the JCC in Scotch Plains


What it means to be a donor

Becoming a registered bone marrow or stem cell transplant donor is easy, and the donation process is not as painful as many believe, according to National Marrow Donor Program.

"You swab your cheek. If you are lucky enough to be someone's life saving donor the next step is as simple as giving blood,” said Krista Coppola, who saved donated stem cells to save her sister, MeghanRizzo’s life, after a leukemia diagnosis. “Their hope and life is in the hands of those of you who are generous enough to save them."

The most common way to donate is through a procedure called Peripheral Blood Cell Donation, which means the donor does not undergo surgery but instead receives injections over just a few days to increase healthy cell production.

The donation is performed much like a transfusion, a simple procedure of sitting down and donating blood.

While PBCD is most common today, many people are familiar with marrow donation, where marrow is extracted from the hip bone of a donor, a procedure that has vastly improved over the years.

It is important to note that if called as a match, donors will not know the patient they are donating stem cells or marrow to until one year has passed. At that time, both parties may agree to meet.


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