Surfside Beach woman anonymously donates stem cells to young woman with leukemia

Updated: Aug. 4, 2017 at 4:40 PM EDT
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(Source: Stevielyn Winfield)
(Source: Stevielyn Winfield)
(Source: Stevielyn Winfield)
(Source: Stevielyn Winfield)

SURFSIDE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – One Surfside Beach woman has dedicated her life to helping others, and on Monday, she gave the ultimate gift of all – a second chance at life.

Stevielyn Winfield, a firefighter and EMT loves spending time with her husband, and their two sons, Grayson and Garrett. She also has a passion for helping others.

Winfield donates school supplies to kids in need, she helps people on some of the worst days of their lives as an EMT, and she recently donated blood stem cells to a young woman she doesn't even know.

Every three minutes someone is diagnosed with a blood cancer like leukemia or lymphoma. That breaks down to 480 people a day and 20 people an hour. Stem cell and bone marrow donors are always in need.

Winfield registered with nearly ten years ago after a co-worker's wife was diagnosed with leukemia. Potential donors register with Be The Match and doctors use their information to match them to a patient in need.

A perfect match is not as simple as having the same blood type – doctors look at DNA, tissue connections, heritage, and ethnicity as well.

Winfield almost forgot she signed up because she didn't get a call until this May saying she was a perfect match for a young woman with acute myeloid leukemia in need of stem cells.

The chance of ever being called is 1 in 70,000. From there, only 1 in 430 actually donate, but Winfield said she didn't think twice.

The next few weeks included physicals, tons of blood work, and 4 days of shots leading up to donation day.

The shots separate stem cells from blood to make the donation go smoother. They often be very painful, but Winfield said it wasn't that bad.

“Knowing that you're going to help somebody, all I could think about it what is she going through right now, and her pain is way worse than the discomfort from the shots that we have to do what you can to help somebody else," she said.

On donation day, she traveled to Charleston with her mother and underwent one more set of shots before the 5-hour donation process began.

The donation process is similar donating blood, but the stem cells and some plasma are separated from the blood and kept. The rest of the blood is then returned to the donor.

The young woman Winfield donated to now has a better chance at surviving. She hopes to meet her after the two-year wait period for this case.

“I would actually love to. I don't know anyone who wouldn't want to meet the recipient," Winfield said. "To me it's almost like she would become a sister.”
Winfield encourages everyone with a passion for helping others to register to be a donor. 
“If something were to happen to me or my kids, I would hope that someone would step up and help,” she explained.

If you would like to register to become a donor, go to and click ‘join.’ It’s simple – fill out a form, wait for a swab to come in the mail, swab your cheek, send it back and wait for a call.  You must be between 18-44 to register.

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