Middletown woman hopes to inspire after donating stem cells to stranger

MIDDLETOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — A Middletown woman is encouraging others to donate stem cells after she helped save the life of a complete stranger.

Cassandra Mello recently underwent a procedure to donate some of her own stem cells through “Be The Match,” which is operated by the National Marrow Donation Program.

Roughly two years ago, Mello stood in line to have her cheek swabbed to find out if she was a match for two Newport school employees who needed bone marrow donations, including Assistant Principal Jaime Crowley.

“I didn’t know him personally,” Mello said. “I just knew that it was for him and another employee at the school and that they were both in need of a match.”

Unfortunately, Mello was not a match for Crowley or the other employee. However, she recently discovered she was a match for someone else in need.

“They called and said, ‘there are certain markers that you have to match.’ So, I was a 10 point out of 10 match for a stranger,” Mello recalled.

Mello underwent the more than six-hour procedure, which she said came with a little discomfort but a great reward.

“My mom actually is a breast cancer survivor, so I’ve always kind of thought like, if someone could have saved her life, if she needed something for that, that I would have wanted them to do it,” Mello said. “So it wasn’t really a second thought… if you could save someone’s life, then why wouldn’t you?”

Mello said she hopes to meet her match someday and that by sharing her story, she will inspire others to sign up for the bone marrow registry.

“I had never even donated blood before, so I definitely am not someone who my whole life has been like, ‘you should get out there and help,'” she said. “But now that I’ve seen the process and I’ve seen how simple it was for me to go and wait in line to get tested, and then, even though it was two years later, you have the opportunity to save someone’s life.”

Anyone interested in signing up for become a bone marrow donor or wanting to learn more about bone marrow donations can visit the Be The Match website.