Minnesota mail carrier named Humanitarian of the Year

She's being commended for her "selfless" act.

A postal worker is getting an award after volunteering in an effort to save a stranger's life. 

Deborah Ochetti has been a mail carrier in Burnsville for 30 years, and now she's being honored as the National Association of Letter Carriers' 2017 Humanitarian of the Year

That's because she donated stem cells to a stranger who was in need of bone marrow (more on the procedure below). 

It all started after she responded to a plea in her local newspaper from someone with leukemia who needed bone marrow, a news release says

It turned out Ochetti wasn't a match with that person, but she joined the Be The Match registry. A few years later (in March 2015) she matched with a stranger who was "very sick." 

She jumped at the chance to help, and the morning of the procedure, she said she woke up "with so much joy and excitement in my heart."

"Just knowing that this simple act could possibly give life to another individual – wow, what a blessing," she said in the release.

Ochetti said "in a heartbeat" she'd do it again, and encourages others to do it too, adding: "You won't regret it."

Judges for the National Association of Letter Carriers' awards called Ochetti's actions "selfless" and commended her for helping a stranger, the release said.

She and several other letter carriers who are being honored as heroes are in Washington, D.C. this week touring the sites ahead of Wednesday's award ceremony. 

And this isn't the only recognition she's gotten for her stem cell donation. In 2015, her post office branch presented her with the "Above the Call of Duty" award. And in 2016, she was nominated for the USPS "Civil Servant of the Year" award, the Postal Record said

The procedure

After physical exams and a bunch of paperwork, doctors determined the patient could accept bone marrow or a stem cell donation

Ochetti chose the peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donation, which is the nonsurgical option that removes blood-forming cells that are found in your circulating blood. (A traditional bone marrow donation involves surgery where the marrow is removed from the donor's hip bone.) 

Leading up to the procedure, Ochetti had to get injections (they help increase the number of blood-forming cells in a donor's bloodstream), and then she went to a donation center in St. Paul for the procedure. 

During the procedure, the donor's blood is taken out through a needle in the arm. The blood goes through a machine that collects only the blood-forming cells, and the remaining blood is pumped back into their body through a needle in their other arm, Be The Match's website explains

More on bone marrow transplants

Bone marrow and stem cell donations can help treat a bunch of different diseases, including leukemia, lymphoma, bone marrow diseases, immune system disorders, and sickle cell disease, to name a few, Be The Match says

There are thousands of new diagnosis of each of these diseases every year, with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services saying each year, nearly 20,000 people could benefit from a bone marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant. 

About 1 in every 430 people in the U.S. who are in the Be The Match Registry end up donating bone marrow or stem cells to someone in need, the Be The Match website says

For more information on how to donate bone marrow or stem cells, click here.

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