Barry Crackett was sitting alongside his wife Jessica’s hospital bed in England admiring their newborn son, Sol. They’d planned for a peaceful water birth at home, but sudden complications led to a hospital birth and a rather traumatic entry into the world. Now that things were calm, and Sol was fine, Crackett finally could read the letter.
He remembers opening the card and seeing the tiny handprint, a slightly larger facsimile of his own little boy’s hand, and the words, “Thank you for saving my life!” The greetings were sent by the mother of a child in the United States who had been saved by the bone marrow Crackett donated in 2010.
Reading the letter while cradling their own son “brought it home a bit more,” said the 34-year-old design engineer of his donation. In a reply to the recipient’s mother, Crackett wrote, “…We have only been able imagine what life was like for the recipient and his family. Becoming parents ourselves gave us a much deeper understanding of what it is you have all been through. Your letter made us both cry sad and very happy tears!”
Crackett will be bringing his wife, a social worker for children, and new son, whom he describes as a “gorgeous, placid and very chilled-out baby” to meet his recipient on May 10 during City of Hope’s 37th Annual Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion.
Back in 2002, when he was 23, Crackett was moved to sign up for the registry after seeing a television appeal about a little girl needing a bone marrow transplant. Nine years later, the national registry known as the Anthony Nolan Trust called him. “There was no question about whether I would go through with the donation after finding out there was someone whose life depended on me,” Crackett said.
He and Jessica traveled to the University College Hospital in London where he underwent extensive testing. “The scary bit is when you’re told that the recipient is going through chemotherapy to prepare to receive harvested cells. If you pull out there’s a good chance the patient will die – so you sort of take care of yourself even more – eat better and try to keep yourself healthy.”
Crackett assumed the recipient lived in the UK. “I didn’t even know they exported bone marrow,” he said with a smile. The day of the harvest he learned the patient was a child. “It was exciting, daunting, all that sort of stuff, then you start thinking about this little recipient. Becoming a donor was an easy decision to make, but a harder decision was whether to find out updates of how the transplant went. I am so pleased I did.”
He hopes the upcoming press conference will help inspire others to donate. “Every extra person on the registry increases the chances of finding a match,” said Crackett. “I just hope that if my baby ever needed a donation there would be someone to step up.”
He treasures the handprint of the little American boy, which he intends to frame and display in his Northumberland home. Meanwhile, he’s looking forward to shaking that little hand in person on May 10.