Student Zoe Miller gives life-saving stem cell donation

Graduate student Zoe Miller meets stem cell donation recipient at 5k race.

Graduate student Zoe Miller meets stem cell donation recipient at 5k race.

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Graduate student Zoe Miller swabbed her mouth with a Q-tip in the summer of 2014, not knowing that one day it would change lives.

Miller went on a birthright trip to Israel where everyone in her group swabbed a Q-tip that put them in the Gift of Life Marrow Registry as potential stem cell and bone marrow donors. Two years later, Miller got a call saying she was a potential match for stem cell donation.

“I had to get a bunch of blood work done and all that and so then after that I got called that I was a perfect match,” Miller said.

Miller said she was nervous to go through with the donation after passing out from a blood drive donation just a few months before the call.

“I talked it out with my mom and my friends and realized that like if I had the opportunity to impact someone’s life so much, why wouldn’t I?” Miller said.

As soon as the match was made, the procedure was scheduled for the next summer.

“Five days before I got these shots that would increase the white blood cell count, and it expanded my bones and that was super painful,” Miller said. “And then day-of I had to sit there in the hospital with these two needles in my arms, one’s taking the blood out and like filtering it and taking out the extra white blood cells and then the other one would put it back into my body so they didn’t drain the life out of me.”

This winter break, Miller’s recipient wanted to meet her and thank her in person for the life-saving donation. The two met at a 5k race held in Boca Raton, Florida. There, Miller found out she had donated to a Miami woman who was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma.

“She actually gave birth a month before they diagnosed her and I didn’t know that,” Miller said.

Miller is one of Gift of Life’s 285,231 registered donors and 14, 585 matches. Tulane started a Gift of Life program that has 28 donors and two matches so far.

Miller encourages students to get swabbed and join the registry if they can.

“Small acts of kindness can really have more of an effect than you would think,” Miller said.