William Fuller, recipient of City of Hope’s 10,000th bone marrow transplant, stood before reporters at a press conference on Feb. 8, less than a month after his lifesaving procedure. The 51-year-old leukemia patient thanked City of Hope and the anonymous donor who provided his second chance at life.
|Leukemia patient and transplant recipient William Fuller, left, receives a 10,000th Bone Marrow Transplant commemorative pin from his physician, David Snyder. (Photo by Bob Riha Jr.)|
Fuller, a native of Belize, came 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.
As is standard protocol for CML patients, he began taking oral medication; however, when he continued to relapse, he transferred to City of Hope and the care of David Snyder, M.D., associate chair of the Department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation
When Fuller came to City of Hope, his disease had advanced to a critical point, according to Snyder. Additional medications pushed the disease into remission, but the effect was only temporary.
The father of three recalls that his medications left him with a “lost feeling, like I was zoning out.” So he stopped driving during treatment and chose instead to endure three-hour journeys to City of Hope by bus and train.
“I did what I had to do,” he said. “I wanted to live.”
|Patient William Fuller describes his experience as recipient of City of Hope’s 10,000th bone marrow transplant. (Photo by Bob Riha Jr.)|
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, the pair knew the search would be challenging. But he
and his family hosted drives in Los Angeles, Florida and New York, reaching out to potential donors of Belizean, Caribbean and Mayan descent.
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.”