Thousands of patients have stepped through City of Hope’s doors to undergo hematopoietic cell transplantation and take back the life that blood disorders threaten to steal from them.
Every one of those men, women and children has a story to tell, a narrative of small victories and rugged persistence through illness. This is the story of one of the first patients to receive a lifesaving transplant at City of Hope.
|Rodrigo Nuñez is now a nurse at City of Hope. (Photo by Fred Lee)|
At age 17, Rodrigo Nuñez left his home in Guanajunato, a small village in Mexico, and headed to the U.S. in search of a better life. Little did he know that his journey in 1978 would give him new purpose for that life.
Six months after arriving in central California and beginning as a migrant worker, Nuñez fell ill. Within a week, he was diagnosed with aplastic anemia. This potentially fatal illness caused his marrow to produce too few healthy blood cells.
He turned to City of Hope for help, and was touched by the uncommon compassion and kindness of its staff.
“One of the nurses gave me her lunch because I had arrived after mealtime,” he said. “I was so grateful, I told her, ‘I am going to be just like you: I am going to become a nurse.’”
Staff members tested his family in Mexico, and they identified his brother as a match for a bone marrow transplant.
Nuñez underwent the procedure in late 1978 and spent the following year with a generous nearby family who agreed to host him while he pursued an education.
Enrolling in high school and then graduating from Pasadena City College’s nursing program, Nuñez kept the promise he made at the hospital. He has worked as a nurse at City of Hope for more than 23 years.
Today, he provides compassionate comfort and understanding to patients, imbued with an empathy that stems from his personal experience.
Although he was fortunate enough to find a donor within his own family, Nuñez knows that most patients must depend upon cells donated from genetically matched strangers. So he tirelessly champions the recruitment of minority volunteers into the marrow registry. He also has participated in several national drives, working to increase awareness and funds for stem cell donation.
For information on how you can register as a potential bone marrow donor, please visit City of Hope’s donor registry page.