For doctoral student Sarah Saunders, becoming a bone marrow donor is a gift of oneself

Thanks to a forgotten action years ago, Saunders recently was called on to save a stranger’s life.

Sarah Saunders seated in a laboratory.
Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering doctoral student Sarah Saunders. (Noreen O’Brien)

For patients with blood cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma, a bone marrow transplant can be the difference between life and death. A bone marrow donor has to be a perfect match for the patient, so having as many people as possible on the donor registry is crucial.

Sarah Saunders joined the registry seven years ago as a Virginia Commonwealth University freshman. It only required a swab of her cheek. Her DNA was then stored in a large database, waiting until a patient who was a match needed it.

Saunders, now a mechanical and nuclear engineering doctoral student in the VCU College of Engineering, doesn’t even remember registering. But thanks to that forgotten action, she recently was called on to save a strangers life. She shares her story — in her own words — in this essay published by the College of Engineering.

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