Seven years ago today, I saved a man’s life.
While I don’t know his name, or whether he has had the good fortune to live to see this day, I gave him an extraordinary gift – my bone marrow.
Seven years ago, I matched a complete stranger. I had been on the national bone marrow registry since I was 18 and it took only seven years for me to be a perfect match. Seven has always been my favorite number.
I matched, at the time, a 29-year-old male with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. There was no doubt in my mind that I would donate. I held the keys to save someone, to give them something that no one else could. I was his lifeline.
Not everyone agreed with my decision. My family, while completely supportive, feared for my own well-being. Would something happen to me during the donation, what were the long-term effects? I understood, but all I could think of was if this was my family, if this was me, or someone I loved, and I had to rely on the generosity of strangers, I’d need someone like me to step up to the plate.
I went through some pain, I gave up paid working days, and it was an emotional roller coaster, as things didn’t go quite as smoothly as the registry had promised. Needless to say, I still saved that 29-year-old man, “Peter” as I liked to call him, since I didn’t know his real name.
I was only updated for a year about “Peter,” and up until that point, he lived. He was doing well and surviving. That’s really all anyone could have hoped for. I always wished he would reach out, send a letter, a card of thanks or maybe even call me, but he has yet to do that, and no one from his family has ever done that either. I don’t need that to complete the process, it would just be icing on the cake.
When I see people on TV meet their donors, or read their stories in the paper, I wish that could be me. And then sometimes I think, maybe “Peter” died. Maybe he’s not even alive to thank me. It’s such a black hole not knowing how it all turned out. It certainly wasn’t the ending I was expecting, but who knows, in 10 years, maybe “Peter” will come knocking on my door to say hello.