Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Marrow Donation Part 7

Well I don't want to brag, but I'm going to anyway. I'm proud of someone in my family, my half-great uncle. Not that he's only half great. You'll understand if you stay with me. So pour yourself a cup of coffee, relax, and join me on a brief journey back through time. It went something like this:

Nearly 100 years ago, my great grandmother died of TB leaving my great-grandfather, Edward Thomas, a widower and father of two girls. He was a country doctor in Prairie Hill, Texas, not far from where I now live. Edward remarried and had a son in 1920, E. Donnal Thomas, my half-great uncle. Or maybe my great half-uncle. At any rate, my grandmother was his big half-sister. She always called him Skike.

As Donnall (Don) grew up, he would drive his father on late-night house calls in the family model-T, watching his father practice medicine and save lives. Don decided early in life that he wanted to follow in his father's footsteps and practice medicine.

Now, fast forward to 1942. Don is married to Dottie and starting Harvard Medical School. In 1955 they, together, began to research transplantation. (For more info see a great story here.) At that time, the medical community thought transplantation was doomed to failure and he was considered a bit of a quack! In 1963 they moved to Seattle to build a team of researchers that saught to develop bone marrow transplantation as a cure for leukemia. This team is still in existence, and at present has trained the vast majority of bone marrow transplantation physicians in the world. I can remember my grandmother telling me about his work when I was a young child in the 1970's. It's funny, but it didn't really impress me much back then.

Then, while I was in graduate school, we all found out that he won the 1990 Nobel Prize for Medicine! I was suddenly very impressed indeed. He told my grandmother when he heard the news, that "The only thing I hate, is that Daddy's not here to see me get it. I owe so much to him" refering to his father, the country doctor.

So it is with a special satisfaction that I complete my marrow donation. Although I don't really know my half-great uncle, I may have to write him and let him know I have been up to lately. After all, we look a lot alike!


Kevin Martineau said...
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Peas on Earth said...

My husband's aunt underwent treatment this past few months for leukemia at Fred Hutch: a mini-transplant. She was discharged on New Year's Eve and declared to be in remission. Thank God for people like your relatives!