Culture February 14th, 2018

This Zapponian Delivered The Ultimate WOW Service

For Zappos, to deliver WOW through service means everything.

In fact, it’s our first core value. And it doesn’t mean lip service. This means getting down and dirty any which way we can, both as a company and as individuals.

Zappos has donated money, pushed for animal adoptions across the country, and collected thousands of shoes and clothing to help those less fortunate. Employees also donate by helping at various charitable events throughout the year, and by giving their money and time. This isn’t bragging; it’s just a part of our culture to help.

And Fernando Cabestany is no different.

Cabestany was born and raised in Mexico City but traveled the world before settling down with his family in Nevada. He holds several roles within Zappos; all of which are unique titles, such as Left Side Brain, Creative Cat and Vetting Viceroy. But he’s most known for his epic designer skills.

Cabestany is a humble man who would give you the shirt off your back if you needed it. In this case, he donated blood stem cells to a person he didn’t know.

According to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, every three minutes an American is diagnosed with blood cancer. Sadly, only 30 percent find compatible bone marrow donors in their own families. That means 7 out of 10 patients — nearly 14,000 each year — must rely on a complete stranger to save their life.

In 2015, DKMS, a non-profit blood cancer organization, came to Zappos to participate in a donor drive. Cabestany spoke with one of the program members and was so moved that he signed up to become a donor. And it was easy to do so. A signature of release and a collected DNA sample from his mouth was all that was required. Although the odds of selection were low, he said it felt good to add his name to the list.

Founded over 26 years ago, DKMS has registered more than 7.9 million potential donors worldwide. However, according to the company’s website, less than 1 percent of registered donors get contacted as a possible match.

Flash-forward to late 2017, two years later, and Cabestany received an email from DKMS stating he was a likely donor. Panic ensued.

The first thing he thought of was a spinal tap, a very invasive and painful procedure that could cause several health risks. Cabestany set the message aside for two weeks until he received a nudge from a DKMS coordinator who walked him through the donation process and eased his worries.

“If I were ever in that situation, I would like a total stranger to be generous to me, or my kids or my wife.”

“I came to the conclusion that if this person is in such a situation that their only hope is to trust a stranger, the least I could do is do my part and be generous,” said Cabestany.

Next, Cabestany endured a blood drawing session here in Las Vegas, then traveled out of state for more bloodletting and tests to make sure he was an exact match. They also wanted to ensure that he met their strict health standards and white blood cell count. On his second trip out of town, a mere 20 days after the first, he participated in the actual donation.

To compensate for this fear, Cabestany said created a story in his mind about a child that needed bone marrow to survive. He thought it would make it easier to endure all the poking, prodding and visual inspections of his veins.

According to DKMS, there are two ways to collect bone marrow, and neither involves a spinal tap. The first procedure, administered 25 percent of the time, is an actual bone marrow donation. Marrow cells are collected from the back of your pelvic bone using a syringe. This process takes 1-2 hours under anesthesia, so there’s no pain during the donation.

The majority of cases, 75 percent, in fact, use the Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Donation (PBSC). PBSC donation is a non-surgical, outpatient procedure that collects blood stem cells via the bloodstream. It takes about 4-8 hours over the course of two days. This is the route that Cabestany took.

“The whole process is incredibly comprehensive, as it’s truly a life or death situation.”

After the donation process was over, Cabestany was told that his recipient was not a child like he'd imagined. Rather, it was a man around the same age.

“That fact hit way closer to home than the kid story because it could have essentially been me,” said Cabestany.

DKMS has strict policies in place to guard the patient’s privacy, so Cabestany doesn’t know the recipient of his blood stem cells. He was given the opportunity to send a letter through the system but had declined. Cabestany believed it might be better if the patient thought of him as a stranger and stay focused on his recovery.

Marrow is typically replenished after 4-6 weeks so, despite the incredible odds of being a match for the second time, Cabestany said he’d do it again and decided to remain on the list. DKMS calls him occasionally to check on his recovery process even though he said he felt fine after two weeks.

“I feel incredibly lucky that I had the chance to be a part of giving someone a second chance at life,” remarked Cabestany. “There’s a lot of people working really hard to save this patient’s life, and all I had to do is take the time. I’d encourage everyone to sign up and be on the list.”

Would you consider becoming a blood stem cell donor? To learn more about blood cancer, or to get involved and save a life, visit the DKMS website here.