After her father’s transplant, Brilee found a way to give back

Posted March 4th, 2011 by Be The Match and filed in Donor Stories, News, Patient Stories
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Brilee is spreading the word about bone marrow donationBrilee was a high school sophomore when she began speaking at schools and helping with Be The Match Registry drives to raise awareness of the need for marrow donors.

Brilee’s story:

Six years ago, my dad had a transplant. I’d never heard of marrow or stem cell transplants before then; very few people in my town of about 1,700 had.

Watching my dad go through transplant and recovery really opened my eyes to what I can do for a career in the future and even right now. When I needed to do a big project for school, I decided to educate people in our area about transplants and marrow donation.

Helping with marrow drives

I went to Inland Northwest Blood Center (a Be The Match partner) and asked what I could do. I was only 15, so I was too young to join the registry myself. They told me that I could help hold marrow drives as long as I had an adult with me. So I went with Inland Northwest Blood Center staff to a drive at Eastern Washington University and learned how to sign people up for the Be The Match Registry. I told students there about my dad and helped them to join the registry.

I went on to help with a drive at my own school and other schools and at our local American Cancer Society Relay for Life event. Everyone was surprised by the numbers of people who joined the registry from such a small community.

Speaking in schools and the community

I also wanted to educate other high school kids, since they would be 18 soon. Then when they had the chance to join later, in college or somewhere, they’d already know about the registry and be interested in joining. I made a PowerPoint presentation and went to four schools in my area, where I spoke to juniors and seniors about the registry and shared my story of how my dad’s transplant had affected my family.

After I’d spoken at a couple schools, a member of my community asked if I’d be speaker of the month for a Northwest Bank speaking series in Spokane. I went with my parents and spoke to the employees. I did my usual presentation, then my dad spoke about his transplant experience and my mom spoke about being a caregiver. The bank had an employee facing transplant at the time, so they had lots of questions about the transplant experience. I felt being invited to speak there was quite an honor. The CEO even came down and talked with me after the presentation.

Father’s transplant is life-changing

Watching my father go through transplant and recovery has really made a difference in my life. It’s opened my eyes to what’s available to me for work, and I’ve decided the medical field is where I want to be. I want to become a pediatric oncologist.

My school project is done – I gave my report and the teachers said it was one of the biggest projects they’d ever seen. But I’m still helping with marrow drives. I want to do what I can to make a difference. I thought that helping with the marrow drives and with blood drives, taking my time to volunteer was a great way to give back to these organizations that helped my dad. Anyone can find a way to help.

15 Responses to “After her father’s transplant, Brilee found a way to give back”

  1. Heather says:

    Great job, Brilee! Thanks for everything you do.

  2. Marianne says:

    AWESOME! You are evidence that EVERYONE can make a difference. I’ve been in the registry for over 15 years and never been called. I would be honored to be a match for someone. Thank you for encouraging others to register.

  3. Amanda says:

    That’s great! I donated stem cells in August and recently recieved the 6 month update that the patient continues to recover!!! Everyone should register as a donor! 🙂

  4. Rene V Ticsay says:

    Thanks for inspiring many to sign up. I did sign up a few months ago & I will be thrilled to be a match to anyone in need !

  5. Elizabeth says:

    Actually, I’m terrified of medical treatments/procedures, yet realize to help someone else or save a life is one of the highest gifts/callings I can offer. Hearing Brilee’s courageous story is a reminder a donor helps more than just a patient, they help a family, the friends, and in Brilee’s father’s case, an entire community. Brilee, it’s people such as yourself that give someone like me the courage to sign up. Thanks for taking the step to help educate others. Targeting younger people is brilliant because they will be in the registry a very long time. 😉

  6. cathy mason says:

    I think it is wonderful that people care and donate to others. My niece had a successful transplant in January and I have met so many people who have similar stories when I’ve shared her story with them. Her courage has inspired all of us. Our lives have changed along with hers, for the better, kinder.

  7. Pam Zeiler says:

    Wow – Brilee is an amazing young women. Instead of just being Thankful for her the gift of her father’s transplant – she has decided to Extend the information and how we can help each other to her community and beyond. Many have been touch by Brian illness and recovery – but Brilee turned it into helping others. AWESOME.

  8. Glen and Karen Linder says:

    Brilee, we are so proud of your efforts to give back to your community and offer support and resources to other individuals and families in need of transplants. Your goals and vision for your life are so clear that I know you will not let anything dissuade you. When you become a pediatric oncologist, you will be able to offer not only your medical expertise but also empathy and hope to young children and their families. Love, Grandma and Grandpa

  9. Sandi Swannack says:

    Brilee…you are so energetic and motivated! You have what it takes to be a great Doctor and I know that you will do great things for kids!

  10. Jean Parsons says:

    I had the privilege of listening to Brilee’s presentation and signed up to be a marrow donor—it was a “piece of cake”—simply painless! I also was a judge for her culminating senior presentation and her presentation was fabulous!! There were two other community members on the panel, one being an RN and Brilee’s presentation was so thorough. We were very impressed!

  11. Chris Wittmer says:

    That is an inspiring story Brilee. I hope your dad is still doing well. I have been on the registry for many years but have never been called as a match. I do try to go and do platelet donations as often as possible because I know there are so many kids and adults that need platelets when they are undergoing treatment. Thanks for all your work in your community!

  12. Megan Grant says:

    Brilee,

    You are a true inspiration. You have done so much good in encouraging so many people to sign up with the donor registry.

    Like others here, I am yet to receive a call asking to donate but I would be truly honored to be a match and help someone in need.

  13. Rob Coffman says:

    Good job Brilee!

    Thanks for getting me signed up for the program.

  14. Katrina says:

    Hi Brilee! Hey, you may want to see if you could talk with Chappie Conrad @UW Bone & Joint Surgical Center, either by phone or when you are in Seattle again. He is a pediatric bone cancer specialist/surgeon, who did both ofMark’s hip replacements due to the prednisone & chemo. You would love him! GREAT JOB! You are amazing as well as your family! We will always hold that time with your family in Seattle very close to our heart! LOVE, Katrina, Mark, & Kelly!

  15. Anna White says:

    Brilee,
    “It takes each of us to make a difference for all of us.” I leaned about strength from you all in our classrooms at Hutch School and am so proud of you! I still teach 5th graders and look forward to sharing your story tomorrow in class. We have been talking about how each of can make a difference, and I am so happy to be able to use students I know as examples! Please say hello to your family and good luck in school!!
    Take care, Anna White

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