Business student Hannah Brazel helps a family in need through Be The Match

by | Jun 6, 2022

Brazel, a senior marketing major, donated peripheral stem cells to a patient with leukemia this spring, while working toward her bachelor’s degree and serving as Marketing Club secretary.
Hannah Brazel

This spring, Hannah Brazel, a senior marketing major at UMSL, donated peripheral stem cells to a patient with leukemia through Be The Match. The organization is a nonprofit that operates the most diverse bone marrow registry in the world and coordinates donations and transplants for patients with life-threatening blood diseases such as leukemia and lymphoma. (Photo by August Jennewein)

When Hannah Brazel’s cousin was diagnosed with leukemia in 2017, she didn’t think twice about joining Be The Match.

The organization is a nonprofit that operates the most diverse bone marrow registry in the world and coordinates donations and transplants for patients with life-threatening blood diseases such as leukemia and lymphoma. Brazel and the rest of her family weren’t matches for her cousin, but he did find a life-saving donor in Germany through Be The Match.

Brazel, a senior marketing major at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, was on the registry for four years before recently donating peripheral stem cells to a patient with leukemia.

She completed the transplant in Washington, D.C., this spring and has become an advocate for the program, spreading awareness about the difference it can make for patients with blood diseases, while completing her bachelor’s degree, serving as Marketing Club secretary and working at the UMSL Recreation and Wellness Center.

“It’s definitely a rewarding experience,” she said. “I joined registry for my cousin, and I couldn’t donate for him. So, it’s great that I could donate for someone. I got the opportunity to do what my cousin’s donor did for him, and I saw how it gave my family so much hope. I’m glad I could give someone else’s family so much hope.”

Be The Match contacted Brazel previously about two other potential matches. However, the patients ended up not being healthy enough to receive a donation. But the third time was the charm. After a blood test, Brazel was deemed to be a perfect match.

She flew to the nation’s capital to begin the process of a non-surgical donation, where her plasma and stem cells were separated from the rest of her blood. The procedure was simultaneously exciting and nerve-wracking.

“It was kind of like a whirlwind of emotions,” Brazel said. “In the five days before and the day of donation, I had to get these injections – they’re called PRP injections. I had to get two each in my stomach each day, and that was what I was most nervous for because they said it was going to make your bones hurt. It did, for sure, but since I’m young, luckily, it didn’t hurt too bad.”

For now, contact between Brazel and the patient is kept anonymous. After a year, they each have to the choice to provide their contact information and to meet in person if they choose. Brazel’s not sure if she’ll meet the recipient of her donation, but after experiencing her cousin’s battle with cancer, she’s just happy to provide solace to another family.

“You never know what that family is going through, and that family is a normal family just like yours,” Brazel said. “They’re going through such a big thing, and for you to be the person to actually help them, that means so much to them. You’re a stranger helping out another complete stranger so it’s a really big thing, and it’s definitely a rewarding process.”

In addition to her advocacy for Be The Match, Brazel is working toward a bachelor’s degree in marketing and expects to graduate in December. The reputation of the College of Business and Administration attracted Brazel to UMSL, and she decided to study marketing because she has a passion for getting people involved.

She’s been quite involved on campus herself.

This past semester she served as secretary of the Marketing Club and as social media and marketing co-chair for the Women Empowering Women Club. She has also worked her way through college, being promoted several times at the RWC.

“I was kind of scared to get a job while in college because college is already so much, but the Rec Center is very good at balancing out your school and helping you out wherever you need it,” she said. “They’re also very big on growth.”

At the RWC, Brazel has had the opportunity to grow and take on additional responsibilities. After working in an entry-level position, she was quickly promoted to lead climbing wall supervisor and also given a position in the membership services office. The RWC also opened a marketing assistant position for Brazel, where she worked with social media and event planning. Most recently, she’s served as a building manager.

“I actually applied to be a building manager once a year ago, and I did not get taken on,” she said. “But since then, I was promoted to lead at the climbing wall, taken in at the membership office, marketing assistant, so they really saw those leadership skills from me and saw that growth. They found I was ready for the building manager position.”

As a building manager, she’s excited to continue to develop leadership skills, help coordinate the staff and make sure that members feel welcome in the facility.

This summer, Brazel parlayed her experience at the RWC into an internship as a recruiting coordinator with Burnett Specialists in Austin, Texas, where she’s continuing to make perfect matches.

“I really like recruiting because it’s like marketing for these companies and these people that are trying to get jobs,” she said. “It gives me the opportunity to help people find where they’re meant to be, so I really like that factor of recruiting.”


Click here for more information about joining Be The Match.

Burk Krohe

Burk Krohe