Marrow Donators: ‘Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things’

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Lisa Garys Korsland enjoyed a busy lifestyle for years, living abroad in the U.K. and Switzerland, raising her three children and working as an engineer for General Mills.

But it all came to an abrupt end in December of 2010.

A simple twist of an ankle led to a diagnosis of leukemia. She knew it was just a matter of time before she would need a life-saving marrow transplant.

Lisa was one of the lucky ones; her match was anxious to help.

“My donor happens to be German, so we know they looked all over the world,” Korsland said. “This bubbly, smiley face student says, “I was called and I answered.’ And I always say ‘thank you,’ and she said, ‘Why would somebody not do this? I could spend a few days of taking some medicine, I can go in for a few hours and I saved a life,’” she said.

Mary Halet of Be the Match says marrow donation is an easy way to change a life.

“Its ordinary people doing extraordinary things – and you don’t have to wear a cape to be a super hero,” Halet said. “Anybody can make a difference and save somebody’s life.”

Registration involves completing a health history form and giving a swab of cheek cells. About 75 percent of the time, a patient’s doctors requests a peripheral blood stem cell donation, a non-surgical out-patient procedure – similar to donating platelets or plasma.

Lisa is not only on the mend, but she’s almost as active as ever. Her experience sparked her to lead a team, the Mud Bloods, in the Bet the Match Walk Run.

“I can walk Lake Harriet, I can do it under an hour and I’m going to raise some money,” Korsland said.

The Mud Bloods have raised close to $50,000 – money Lisa says can never repay what Be The Match has done for her and her family.

“I feel blessed,” she said.

Lisa hopes to expand her involvement with Be the Match by using her international connections to increase the ethnic diversity of the registry.

Patients are most likely to match someone of their own race or ethnicity.

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