When Shawn Ahdoot went to donate blood almost 10 years ago, he had no idea that it would change his life forever.
While visiting the hospital on that fateful day, he saw a sign on a door that read: "Do you want to help save someone’s life? Do a cheek swab today."
Intrigued, he took a detour from his original mission and opened that door, walking into what would become the most pivotal experience of his life.
After completing the simple cheek swab and a little bit of paperwork, Ahdoot was added to the Be The Match Registry, the world’s largest bone marrow donation registry, which has been connecting patients and donors for over two decades.
Based on Ahdoot's experience, here are five reasons you too should become a bone marrow donor.
1. You could save someone’s life.
For patients battling multiple myeloma and other blood cancers, a successful bone marrow transplant can lead to remission or even complete cure.
Despite his fear of needles, Ahdoot knew that this was his chance to give the gift of good health to someone in need, so he wasn’t going to let it stop him.
"I was raised to help people. I was taught that you feel comfort in your heart when you reach out your hand. I’ve been blessed with so many things in life, health being the main one, so I felt like it was my time to return the favor," Ahdoot recalled.
"When I found out I was a match for somebody, I was in tears. I know that not a lot of people get this call, so I was emotional. I knew it was my chance to save someone’s life."
2. It’s easier than you think.
Joining the registry and the transplant procedure are probably easier than you would expect. To join the Be The Match registry, all it takes is a few samples from the inside of your cheeks, taken with a cotton swab.
As for the donation itself, doctors withdraw liquid marrow using a needle, but patients receive anesthesia so the procedure is painless.
Within hours of his operation, Ahdoot was dancing in his hospital room. A couple of days later, he was already back at work.
Donors are also surrounded by a compassionate team of doctors, nurses and hospital staff, all there to make the entire process as easy and comfortable as possible.
Ahdoot recalls one nurse in particular who made his stay at City of Hope memorable.
"Lori Stancer, one of my nurses, started calling me Superman on day one. I called her Dracula because she always wanted my blood," said Ahdoot.
"It was a delight to work with her. She made everything very easy. She was very smart and knew what she was doing."
3. More donations from minorities are needed.
Only 25 percent of the registry is comprised of minority donors, making it more challenging for patients with diverse ethnic backgrounds to find a match.
This made Ahdoot’s donation all the more meaningful, as he is of Iranian descent.
"I am Persian and Jewish, so we are a very small minority. It broke my heart to learn that so few minorities are able to find their match. So I made it my mission to do everything I could to help my community," said Ahdoot.
"One person who has been particularly inspiring to me recently in this fight is Adam Krief, a cancer patient with a similar background to mine. He started a foundation called Hope 4 Adam to find a donor for himself, and in the process, he raised a lot of awareness about the need for people to donate. He passed away very recently, but the impact he has had on our community is truly inspiring."
4. You will grow as a person.
Although it has been years since Ahdoot donated, he carries the lessons he’s learned with him every single day.
But there is one person in particular whom he credits with truly changing his life: his match, Farnaz Moffarah.
"I met my match and it was literally the best experience of my life. Without her, I wouldn’t be who I am today — a person who is in touch with his emotions, who is spiritual and who understands how beautiful life is and how short life can be," said Ahdoot.
"Sadly, Moffarah has since passed away, but I’m still close with her family. I am forever in her debt because without her, I wouldn’t have realized my potential as a human being. She made me a humanitarian, and I always see the good in people now. I give everyone the benefit of the doubt, I give everyone a chance and I treat everyone as an equal. And it is all thanks to her."
5. You get to be a superhero.
Ahdoot was inspired to become a donor, in part, to fulfill his childhood dream of being a superhero.
"Has anyone ever wanted to become a superhero when they were a kid? The answer is yes. So when I saw that it was my opportunity to help save someone’s life, I felt like I could fulfill that dream for a day," Ahdoot said.
"I’ve always liked to help people. I love people. And it was my time to help a person in a life or death situation, so I was happy to put the cape on for the day and hopefully make a difference in someone’s life."
When his donation day arrived, Ahdoot even dressed the part.
"The morning of my actual donation, the first thing I did was put on my Superman shirt, pants and cape, which made all of the doctors, nurses and patients smile. I loved seeing the looks on all of their faces and making them laugh," Ahdoot said.
Recognized again by the Center for International Blood & Marrow Transplant Research (CIBMTR), City of Hope is the only institution in the nation to exceed BMT patient outcome expectations for 15 consecutive years.
City of Hope Rose Parade Donna McNutt was 54 years old when she was diagnosed with Stage 4 multiple myeloma. McNutt decided to come to City of Hope because of a renowned blood cancer specialist, Amrita Krishnan, M.D.
Father of two Rosendo Moreno of Chicago didn't hesitate when Be The Match asked if he would be interested in being a bone marrow donor for 5-year-old Zuleika Flores of San Diego. Three years later, they finally meet.