Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Dear Donor

We’re told that we can’t have direct contact with you until one year post-transplant. So, I can only say thank you through this very generic letter without any personal information.

They tell us we aren’t allowed to know much about you. Just your vital statistics. I guess knowing that you’re a 45 year old male and that your blood type is A Positive is what they think is important and, in a clinical sense, it is. But I know more. I know that somewhere at some time someone or something prompted you to register with the National Bone Marrow Registry. And when they called you with a match, you stepped up. That tells me a lot.

I’m the father of a 14 year male who’s been fighting an unbelievable battle against Acute Myelogenous Leukemia for the last three years. He’s in his third complete remission and had an autologous bone marrow transplant earlier this year. Unfortunately, his own marrow wasn’t able to hold the line. You are truly our last, best hope. And we are extremely confident. He has proven to be incredibly resilient and has become an extraordinarily tough kid.

When he was first diagnosed, the National Registry returned no match. After his second remission, there was still no match for him. When his cancer returned for the third time after his autologous transplant, we didn’t have a lot of hope. But the Registry returned two possible matches. One didn’t pan out. You did. A 9 out of 10 match. And, you agreed to the donation. I’d like to tell you I was ecstatic. I was; but the overwhelming emotion was just—relief. And a peace of mind I hadn’t had in months. Do you know how you aren’t really aware of how great a load you’re carrying until it’s lifted off of you? I wept for joy.

I know we aren’t out of the woods yet. Lord, knows we know that life doesn’t come with any guarantees. But I know that, somewhere, you’ve been going through Neupogen shots or its equivalent to stimulate cellular regeneration in your marrow. I’ve thought a lot about you this past week. I know that hasn’t been comfortable and that it makes your bones ache. I know that your hip is going to be sore this next week after they harvest your marrow for my son. And I know you didn’t have to do this.

We don’t know what the ultimate outcome is going to be. He’s still got a battle on his hands and we have to wait. Wait for your marrow to engraft. Wait for the inevitable infections he’ll have to fight off. Wait while he battles Graft versus Host Disease. I want my son back in school, back to a normal life. Back to being a teenager. I know that whether or not he survives, he’s in God’s hands. And I believe God works through our hands. The hands of the doctors and nurses, the hands of our many friends, and through your hands. You’ve given him a fighting chance.

There are so many things he still has to battle through here that neither you nor I can control. I’m confident he will survive. My faith won’t falter in that. But if he doesn’t, it will be God’s will. The one thing I do know is that it won’t be because you didn’t step up. You did, and for that I can only say, “Thank you!”

God bless you.

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