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Bone Marrow Donation Success

December 01, 2009

In the summer of 2006 my high school was holding a bone marrow drive in hopes of finding a bone marrow match for a teacher's child who was diagnosed with leukemia. I attended the drive and was tested. Unfortunately, I wasn't a match and I quickly forgot all about the experience.

Nearly three years later, in December 2008, I received a phone call from the National Bone Marrow Association. A woman named Eileen told me I was a potential match for a person in need of a bone marrow transplant. She explained that at that point the chance of being a good enough match for donation was only about one in twelve, but asked if I was willing to give a blood sample. Certain that nothing more would come of the situation, I agreed. A few weeks later Eileen called and told me they had gotten the results of my blood work. I was a perfect match.

It was the beginning of February when my husband and I went to the National Bone Marrow Association office to learn more. Eileen told me the potential recipient was a forty-seven year old woman with early stages of leukemia. If she did not receive a bone marrow transplant she was certain to develop leukemia and the prognosis was not good. Naturally, I had a million questions about her, but Eileen told me that was all she could legally disclose at that time. However, if after one year, the recipient and I both consented, she could release our information.

After explaining all of the risks associated with bone marrow transplants, both for the recipient and the donor, Eileen told us to go home and think about it overnight. It didn't take much discussion; we both knew this was something I had to do. So, I called Eileen the next morning and told her I was willing to donate.

The surgery took place on March 4, 2009 at Lutheran General Hospital in Niles, Illinois. After the surgery was complete, a messenger flew my bone marrow to the hospital where the recipient was located. She underwent surgery the next morning.

Two months later, I received a phone call from Eileen saying the recipient had just been released from the hospital and was doing well. Eileen still calls me from time to time to give me updates on how the recipient is doing. Although the two-year mark is a crucial hurdle for bone marrow recipients, I am happy to say eight months later she's still doing well. I think about her often and hope we will be able to meet in person someday. But, if not, it was still an incredible experience that I'll never forget.

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