Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Blood Marrow Donation: Final Entry

Today I found out that my blood brother died.  I never met him.

It began, for me, back in 2000, when I registered with the National Marrow Donors Program to see if I could be a match for a co-worker whose daughter had cancer.  I wasn't a match.  But seven years later I was a match for someone else.  They called me up out of the blue and asked if I still wanted to be a donor. Of course I did, I told them, I had to blog about something.

So in 2007 I wrote about going through the preliminary procedures.  In 2008 I wrote about the process of peripheral stem cell donation, which was the type I underwent. You can read them all here, I recommend them. I was funnier back then.  I also wrote about my great half-uncle who won the Nobel Prize in medicine for developing this very type of transplantation to treat leukemia (really). Then in 2009 I wrote about receiving a hand-written letter from a man named Lee.

Lee was in his sixties, had a wife and kids, and he had been the recipient of my marrow donation.  The letter included pictures of him drinking coffee and being with his dog. He was a real person after all.  In his letter he called me a hero. His wife and daughter also included letters and they called me a hero too. "Hero" seems like such an exaggeration.  "Nice" maybe, but not "hero."  I somehow felt like I had deceived them into thinking I was someone else, or that it was a case of mistaken identity that I was impolitely refusing to correct. He also called me his blood brother, which touched me.  He didn't have to say that, but he did.  Unlike "hero" which has objective standards, "blood brother" said to me that I was important to him, personally.

[A picture of my dog to prove I am a real person after all too.]

When I looked through my mail today I saw another letter from Washington state.  I know very few people who live there, so somehow I knew what it was without opening it.  It was from Lee's widow.  She told me of his recent and peaceful death. It was a death that had been postponed a few years by this procedure, but eventually had come nonetheless. She wanted me to know. She said to me "You, Brian, will forever be in my heart and prayers."  That touched me.  The way she inserted my name in that sentence like that. It was personal.   To her, anyway, I was a real person after all too.

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