Skip to Main Content

Asked to step in, YNHH Department of Laboratory Medicine steps up to save a life.

March 05, 2015

Asked to step in, YNHH steps up to help save a life

There wasn’t much travel going on in the Northeast during the Jan.27 blizzard, yet some very dedicated people in New Haven, Minneapolis and Mystic were able to come together to help save the life of a patient on another continent.

At 5 pm the evening of the blizzard, Edward Snyder, MD, Director, Transfusion/Apheresis Services at Yale-New Haven Hospital, got a call from the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) in Minneapolis. A stem cell donor in Mystic who was a match for a patient needing a transplant in Europe and was ready to donate, but, due to the storm, the Boston and New York hospitals certified by the NMDP were unable to collect his donation.

Yale-New Haven’s Apheresis unit routinely collects stem cells for YNHH patients, but is not part of the NMDP Stem Cell Collection Program, which has additional protocols for collecting and processing donations. NMDP staff reached out to YNHH because timing was critical. For five days before donating blood stem cells, donors receive a daily injection of drug that causes the bone marrow to make and release the stem cells into the blood. The Mystic donor was approaching day six of these injections and was in optimal condition to donate - it was now or never.

When the NMDP called Dr. Snyder, he and the YNHH Apheresis unit staff on Smilow 8th floor immediately began coordinating an effort that involved YNHH employees in Patient Financial and Admitting Services, Patient Accounts, Pharmacy, the Laboratory, Oncology and other departments.

Courtesy of New London Police and Ambulance services, the donor arrived in New Haven at 1 am Jan. 28 and rested in a local hotel. By 9 am he had started apheresis, a procedure to remove blood and separate it into individual components so that certain cell types, in this case the life-saving stem cells, could be collected. Anna Milani, RN, performed the procedure with Winsome Smith, RN, while using the phone to communicate with the NMDP.

“It was a great, collaborative effort between hospital staff in many departments and the NMDP,” Smith said.

Milani praised the donor, who was unfazed by the many changes in plan.

“He was so willing to give – he was patient, cooperative, and he was engaged in the collection,” she said. “Everyone was so helpful during this whole process.”

According to Dr. Snyder, the Mystic donor did well and left the hospital by 4 pm. The collected stem cells were picked up by a volunteer NMDP courier and were on their way to the cancer patient in Europe by 5 pm.

“The many hospital staff involved in this effort were superb in joining together during a blizzard to help save a life,” Dr. Snyder said. “It was an amazing collaboration among truly dedicated hospital personnel. ‎It was a proud day for YNHH.”

Submitted by Mark Firla on March 05, 2015