Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Truly Thankful

I got the following story in an e-mail today:

Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at a hospital, I got to know a little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare & serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5-year old brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness. The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, "Yes I'll do it if it will save her." As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing the color returning to her cheek. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, "Will I start to die right away". Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood in order to save her.

It is a very sweet and touching story and all too relative to me today. Last year, on the day before Thanksgiving, I found out that someone, like the little brother in this story, was willing to help my father. Perhaps this mystery person knew there was little risk to himself, but it was still an act that he/she did not have to do for my father...for my family.

You see, my dad needed a bone marrow transplant to save his life. Everything else had been tried: Chemotherapy, radiation, a stem cell transplant, and every experimental drug and treatment that we could find. His brothers, the best chance for a match, were not a match for him and things were starting to look grim. The Lymphoma that has been attacking his blood and lymph nodes was starting to win the long fought war.

The National Bone Marrow Registry had been searched, and re-searched several times with nothing coming up as a match.

My husband was gone. He was 300 miles away at a Navy base waiting to be sent to South America for a 6 month deployment. It would be his 2nd holiday season in a row that he wasn't even going to be in the country. I was driving to a town half way between our house and his parents to meet them for a Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant not far off the interstate before they left for a family camping trip with the rest of their extended family when I got the call from my mom.

I started crying while I was driving down a busy interstate. Not so safe. I had to pull over when I realized that my tears were impairing my sight. They were the happiest of happy tears. Someone had matched with my father on the registry and had agreed to do the transplant (Even if you agree to be on the registry, you can still change your mind if they call you). I called my husband's cell phone praying that they hadn't left early forcing him to turn his phone off. They hadn't.

I scared Hubby to death I think. I was crying so hard that he couldn't make out what I was saying, yet he knew that I should be driving to see his parents and that the interstate I was driving on is notorious for bad accidents. After a little while I was able to calm down enough to tell him the news. He was just as relieved as I was, even if he didn't cry!

It was, to date, the best Thanksgiving my family has ever been. We've always been thankful for everything we've had, but this took the proverbial cake. We were thankful for the very life that my father was being given, and thankful to the still anonymous person who made it possible by offering to give his or her bone marrow to my father to save his life.

A year after the transplant, Daddy is doing great! He has had some ups and downs but is hanging on and doing fantastically well according to his doctors. He is still considered "terminal" as so far there is no cure for his particular type of Lymphoma, yet the outlook is nowhere near as grim as it was a little over a year ago.

To the person who made this possible, you may not know me, but I have prayed for you and thanked God for you every single day for the past year. You may never know how much my family and I truly appreciate how much you have given us by your wonderful act of selflessness. I only hope that one day, you can be repaid in some small way.

I strongly encourage anyone who reads this to join the National Bone Marrow Registry. You never know whose life you may be saving or touching.

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

What an amazing thing to be thankful for! Isn't Thanksgiving such a wonderful time of year?