Five years ago, Lexington's Ashley Warren signed up to be a bone marrow donor for extra credit in college.
She had forgotten her name was on the national registry until she got an unexpected call this past September that revealed she may be someone's perfect bone marrow match.
Ashley followed through and donated, twice, and now 10 months later she's received something else she never expected.
"I checked the mail and there was an envelope in there from the National Marrow Donor Program, and I was like 'Oh, what's this?,'' said Ashley, who's also an ER Nurse at Lexington Medical Center.
Ashley thought the letter may be in reference to the recipient of her bone marrow donation, but she never expected it to be from the recipient herself.
"Thank you with all my heart" read the beginning of the card to Ashley. "Your donation has made it possible for me to get my health back and to be with my family for a while longer."
"It was so emotional," said Ashley. "To think there was somebody out there in the world that is well because of something you did."
Ashley had not only donated bone marrow to the mystery woman last September, but this past January, the NMDP called her again to ask her to donate stem cells.
"Basically they said she did engraft the bone marrow, but she was not making cells at the rate they were aiming for. So they wanted me to donate stem cells to give her an extra boost so she could be producing at other levels," said Ashley.
Ashley went through the procedure.
"By the fifth day, I couldn't walk or anything like that, so I went to [a hospital in] Greenville," said Ashley. "They put in a central line and put me on an Apheresis machine to give her more stem cells."
After that procedure, Ashley waited to hear about the recipient. Then about 5 months later around Mother's Day, she received the unexpected note.
"With a new granddaughter who is almost 2 and her mother, my daughter, it means more than I can say to still be able to enjoy them. Thank you again from the bottom of my heart. "
While privacy policies prevented the woman from signing her name, or giving Ashley many other details, Ashley says seeing her handwriting was enough.
"If for whatever reason our paths don't cross, I'm still happy with the fact that she's better and I can live happy knowing she's that way," said Ashley.
As Ashley reflects, she says it's hard to believe it all started from a forgotten extra credit assignment. "I would have done it a million times over, not for extra credit," said Ashley. "If I knew that it was going to lead to this, than I would have just done it willingly."
Even better, Ashley just recently got confirmation from her advocate that the recipient is officially disease free, and there's still a chance she might meet her some day.
If you're interested in signing up on the National Marrow Donor Program "Be the Match" registry, head over to http://bethematch.org/Home.aspx.