Some stories are sparked with passion and my fingers race to keep pace with the words formulating in my mind. Other stories marinade for months before ever coming to fruition. This story began as the later, it has remained unfinished on my computer for several months. That is until last night when I saw a story on the news and felt God nudge me to finish what I started.
I’m not sure why I hadn’t finished this prior, perhaps it is my nature to require a deadline. I think most of us act more quickly when we know time is limited.
The story I intended to share was of my second cousin Karl and his experience donating bone marrow. What prompted me to finish was the NBC Nightly News story of Chris Betancourt and his best friend Dillon Hill. Chris moved from North Carolina to California at age ten and quickly became friends with Dillon. Then in fifth grade after passing out at the beach Chris was diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia. Dillon vowed to become a doctor after witnessing his friend’s struggle. In the short term, he brought as many video games as possible to help pass the time in the hospital. After months of experimental treatments and hospital stay, Chris was in remission.
In high school, Dillon broke the unwritten rules and dated Chris’s sister and the two became even more like brothers. Sadly, Chris’s sister committed suicide during his sophomore year of high school. The bond between the boys deepened as they fought to move forward. Chris began college and planned a future as an IT professional. Then on September 2, 2017, he received the news that his cancer had returned. A mutated string resistant to the experimental treatments that had worked before. Chris was given a year to live.
Chris is twenty years old. Three months of his expected time has already passed. He is coming up on what may likely be his last Christmas. He has been given a deadline and in his words “I’m living my life how life should be lived.”
The best friends have made a bucket list and are tackling it together. One List, One Life, is a quest to pack in as many experiences as possible in whatever time remains. The list includes everything from big dreams of going to space to humble tasks like giving food to homeless people. Together, they are crossing things off.
Back to this story’s origin, Chris’s only hope is a bone marrow transplant.
Imagine that someone you love more than life itself has cancer. Imagine getting the news they will die. Now imagine that a cure for their cancer exists, but it is just out of your reach. Each year thousands of people are diagnosed with blood cancers and this is the heartbreaking reality they face.
Now consider for a moment that the vast majority of us are the ones withholding the potential life-saving cure. Not intentionally of course.
At the very core of our beings is bone marrow. This soft matter found in the center of our bones is where red blood cells are produced. In someone with a blood cancer, their body is producing diseased cells or a reduced number of healthy ones. A relatively simple transplant of healthy blood-forming cells into the patient’s bloodstream can be life-saving.
This was something I’d heard of, but honestly not thought much about. That is until my second cousin Karl began posting on Facebook about his experience as a donor. Be The Match is the global leader in matching donors and patients. They make it easy to join a registry of willing donors. The first step is filling out an online medical history form. Assuming you are healthy, between the ages of 18-44, and meet the general requirements you will provide a cell sample taken from swabbing the inside of your cheek.
Should a match be found you will be contacted and asked to provide a blood sample for further testing. Should a doctor determine you are a good match you will be asked if you wish to proceed with the process. Karl described his procedure as fantastic and flawless. He said the recovery was a bit difficult, with three days of being sore and feeling bruised. However, after those first three days, he felt steadily better. He strongly encourages anyone inclined to donate to do so.
Karl was a good match to a fifteen-year-old boy in the United States suffering from severe aplastic anemia. The strength of their match gave the boy a strong chance at survival. Be The Match says that the boy is now doing well thanks to receiving Karl’s bone marrow.
Thankfully, Karl didn’t need a deadline to motivate him. He attended a Be The Match presentation and without hesitation joined the registry. He said “Thinking of doing just a days worth of surgery for this boy to have a whole new life is amazing.”
Saving a life is an amazing thing. Most of us don’t realize such power may already live in within us.
I urge you for all those who wait, I urge you on behalf of young people making bucket lists to please join the registry. Please share this story in hopes that maybe someone, the one, will be nudged by God and together we can save lives.