Bone marrow donation bonds San Antonio nurse, patient for life

Every day for the last seven years, Dorothy “Dot” Ward has called the apheresis center at the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center her office.

“We actually do is collect peripheral blood stem cells from donors that have become a DNA genetic match for patients that are suffering some form of blood cancer,” Ward, a cellular therapy nurse, said.

The patients in need of this type of treatment are desperate. It’s usually their last hope.

“When a match is found. It’s, I mean, it’s like winning the lotto,” Ward said.

Great things are always happening at @connectforlife. Tonight on the #NightBeat we are introducing you to one of the nurses here at the Apheresis Center. Not only does she collect stems cells and bone marrow, she is a donor. @ksatnews

— Leigh Waldman (@LeighWaldman) March 20, 2022

Dot became a donor when she started working here as a phlebotomist 22 years ago. For six years, she sat on the list waiting to see if she was someone’s life-saving match. In 2004, she finally was.

“Her name is Jemma. At the time of her transplant, she was 19-years-old. She is now 36-years-old,” she said.

Jemma Wilson was diagnosed with Leukemia at 14. She received treatment and went into remission before her cancer came back with a vengeance. Jemma needed a bone marrow transplant quickly.

“There was nobody here in the UK, not even one. So that’s when I just started panicking. I’m not going to find a donor, I’m not going to survive,” Wilson said.

Until she was matched with Dot, almost 5,000 miles away.

Dot made the donation on her mother’s birthday and suddenly, Jemma had a future, one she wanted Dot to be a part of.

“I’ll never forget this day in 2018. I received a text message to join Jemma on Skype,” Ward said. “From then to now to this date, we are in touch and we will always be in touch from now on.”

Jemma had one more surprise for Dot. She revealed that one at a dinner honoring donors put on by the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center.

“It was a Skype video from Jemma. Jemma was asking me. Jemma was telling me that she was recently engaged and she would like for me to attend her wedding,” Ward said.

After two years of COVID-19 delays, Dot and Jemma finally met in person.

“It was very emotional, very overwhelming to meet for the very first time,” Ward said.

Days later on March 5th, 2022, Dot watched as Jemma married the love of her life.

“We have the saying where she says, ‘I am you.’ And I was like, ‘and you are me,’” Ward said.

The two are separated by an ocean, but the relationship they created in 2004 has them bonded for life.

“We got along just like sisters. Matter of fact, we are sisters,”

Dot said Jemma has made her the nurse she is today and inspires her to keep doing better.

Registering to become a donor is simple. Follow this link and fill out the questionnaire.

Be The Match will then send you a mouth swab and you’ll be on your way to potentially saving someone in need.