William Fuller stood at the podium and faced reporters in the lobby of City of Hope Helford Clinical Research Hospital. The 51-year-old leukemia patient looked remarkably fit, considering less than a month before he had undergone a bone marrow transplant.
|William Fuller, left, receives a 10,000th transplant commemorative pin from his physician, David Snyder. (Photo by Bob Riha Jr.)|
For his doctors, Fuller’s procedure marked a dual triumph — Fuller was doing well, and it was City of Hope’s milestone 10,000th transplant.
For Fuller, it was nothing less than a second chance at life.
Fuller, a native of Belize, moved to Los Angeles in 1982, where he later established a small home-electronics repair business. Early in 2008, he was beset with unrelenting night sweats and fatigue as well as abrupt weight loss.
Blood tests at a local clinic revealed an alarmingly high white blood cell count, so Fuller immediately moved to a nearby hospital where he was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia, or CML.
He started taking the standard medicine used for CML, but his disease got worse, so he transferred to City of Hope and the care of David Snyder, M.D., associate chair of the Department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation.
Unfortunately, additional medications could only push the disease into remission temporarily.
In September 2010, Fuller learned his best chance for survival was a bone marrow transplant.
No relatives matched his tissue type, so he and his sister worked with the national marrow donor registry, Be The Match, to find a stem cell donor.
Because of Fuller’s mixed ancestry — he is Belizean, Caribbean and Mayan — the pair knew the search would be challenging. But he and his family hosted drives in Los Angeles, Florida and New York, hoping the regions’ diverse populations would improve the odds of a match.
Eventually, Be The Match identified three potential donors who were perfect genetic matches, and one of them donated the lifesaving stem cells.
“There are thousands of other people like Mr. Fuller who have been helped because a donor came forward to provide lifesaving stem cells that allowed us to do a transplant and hopefully cure the disease,” said Stephen J. Forman, M.D., Francis and Kathleen McNamara Distinguished Chair in Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation and chair of the Department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation.
Forman said that many transplant patients view their donors as new family members, and they often develop lifelong relationships.
“They are ‘blood relatives,’” he said.
Fuller agreed. “I’m deeply indebted to my donor,” he said. “He gave me back my life.”