By Robert W. Dalton
When Emily Hathcock ’23 signed up to be a bone marrow donor, she never imagined she would deliver someone’s Christmas miracle.
Hathcock, a biology major from Summerville, South Carolina, flew to Seattle, Washington, on Dec. 19 to make her donation. The patient, a man who has been diagnosed with a rare blood cancer, was scheduled to receive the transplant shortly after Christmas.
“My sole reason for doing this is that it’s such a simple thing to do to save someone’s life,” says Hathcock, who plans to attend medical school after graduating from Wofford College. “I don’t know what this man looks like or what his family looks like. But I want him to be able to walk outside and take a breath, and to have more time with the people he loves.”
The trip to Seattle caps a journey that began in July 2020, when Hathcock registered with Be the Match, which is operated by the National Marrow Donor Program. She was in teaching assistant (TA) training in the Roger Milliken Science Center this past August when she got the call informing her that she was a tentative match.
“I was overwhelmed,” Hathcock says. “Some people wait a lifetime and never get the call. My mom has been on the registry since I was a baby and she’s never gotten the call.”
Since getting the call, she had more bloodwork done to confirm that she was a definite match. Just before fall break, she received that confirmation, and the day before Thanksgiving she got the call that the donation would be moving forward.
On Dec. 16, Hathcock began a five-day regimen of injections to increase her production of immune cells. On Dec. 20, she sat in a chair for seven hours as about 400 million healthy stem cells were extracted from her body.
“A lot of people have the misconception that donating is a terrifying experience,” Hathcock says. “Actually, it’s something that’s really beautiful. It was painless.”
Hathcock’s stem cells will become the patient’s new immune system. He’ll also have her blood type.
Hathcock, who started Wofford’s Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) chapter, says she’s grateful to have gone through the process. Now that she has, she plans to be a greater advocate for Be the Match.
“It’s just so easy,” she says. “I can’t imagine a world without this organization.”
Hathcock also hopes to one day meet the man who is getting a second chance at life.
“There’s a chance we can meet in a year,” she says. “Until then, we’re allowed to exchange anonymous letters. I’m going to write my first one today.”