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01/02/07 21:50:16 - Donor

Itís been quite a week here. Last Friday afternoon, we got home and found a message on our voice mail. The caller left his name as George Fleming, and he explained that he had gotten our contact information from the National Bone Marrow Center. It turns out that he is Arenís bone marrow donor.
We have always wanted to contact Arenís donor, but there is a very solid system that ensures anonymity on both sides until each side decides that it is ready for contact. One year post-transplant, the donor (or the recipient) can request the other partyís contact information. If both sides consent, the center passes that information on to both sides. Until that time, there is no direct contact between the donor and the recipient.

Even though there is a year waiting period before direct contact can occur, letters can be sent through the Center. Shortly after the transplant, MaryBeth sent such a letter, explaining the situation and our familyís history with SCID. We then set about waiting for the year to be up so we could contact Arenís donor directly.

As it turns out, he beat us to the punch. MaryBeth returned the phone call and tearfully introduced herself to our donor as Arenís mother and thanked him for saving Arenís life. During the course of the conversation we learned that Arenís benefactor was, in fact, a Catholic Priest in Albany, NY who had enrolled in the National Marrow Donor Program in 1987. Father Fleming had never been contacted by the Center until last July, when he was recognized as a match just a few weeks after the search had begun in earnest for a donor for Aren.

It was very interesting to hear his side of the story. The Evangelist, the official publication of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany ran a story about his experience (which you can read here). It has also been wonderful talking to him and hearing how his experience has affected others. (Iím hoping to get permission to re-print the entire article hereÖ Iíll keep you posted on that.)

(We decided not to introduce Aren yet because we need to prep him. Heís a smart kid, but I donít think he quite understands yet exactly what happened and its magnitude. But someday soon, weíll have him call.)

So, thatís it from the news side of it. Now Iím going to tell you how I feel.

If I can, that is. If youíve been paying attention to this blog (or even if you just know me), you know that I try to put something personal into each post, whether itís a bit of humor or some deep emotion. Thatís the reason that I post so infrequently; I feel like if Iím going to do it, I want to give it my best shot.

But when I sat down and started typing up this post, I found that I was at a complete loss, hence the long and rather boring explanation of the contact process (though hopefully someone will find it useful). I mean, what do you say when the person who saved your sonís life calls you on the phone? ďGratefulĒ doesnít even begin to describe what I feel. This is a level of gratitude that goes so far deeper than what we usually think of as being thankful for something.

During Lilyís last hospital stay, I was struck by the selflessness of family and friends and people who barely even knew us. People we didnít even know would show up on our porch with dinner, and people I only barely knew volunteered to watch Aren while I would go to work and MaryBeth stayed at the hospital. And after Lily died, I found that friends and co-workers had the capacity to tell when I needed to be alone and the ability to not run and hide when I needed to talk about Lily. These acts were not large in magnitude, but were immeasurable in meaning to us.

In our society, we have a tendency to feel the need to ďpay backĒ any kindness done to us. These acts, however, went far beyond anything that I might be able to return. This level of gratitude comes with a dose of humility Ė the realization that there is nothing you can do to repay what has been done for you. The most you can often do for your benefactor is to thank them as sincerely as humanly possible. Paradoxically, it also brings an even stronger desire to repay. The desire and the humility combine into a resolve that you will re-pay the best way you can: by doing the same thing for others.

Father Flemingís gift has only deepened this gratitude. It is a gratitude that I donít know that I can ever live up to, but I will certainly try. So I want to thank Father Fleming for being willing to undergo the discomfort and inconvenience of the transplant. Though I donít want to minimize what he went through, it is so little compared to the good that it has done. And now, since there is no way that I can repay him (except on the off chance that he someday needs some of his marrow back and I happen to be a match), I will do my best to just help others however I can.

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ktan2006 wrote:
Wow, that is an amazing story. It makes me want to be a donor now. Thank you both for sharing your lives and story with everyone. MaryBeth, you really inspire me.
05/01 15:18:36

flemmanog wrote:
I cried the whole way through. Amazing that they found such a match so soon, but providential that it was from such a man.
06/01 09:43:31

George wrote:
What an honor to be included in your blog. I checked with the paper and you have permission to use it.
25/01 19:20:21

RainbowG wrote:
I am Father George Fleming's Aunt in Albany, New York, and have been following this story from the day he first received a request from the Red Cross to be tested as a possible donor for a bone marrow transplant. My husband Tom and I started praying for "the little boy" each morning. And now he has a name, Aren. We are overjoyed by the news that he is doing well and we will continue to pray for your family. Aren could not have received his donation from a nicer man. Father George is a remarkable person. May God continue to bless all of you. E.H.
28/01 03:23:59

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