Mother gets stem cells from brother; her son donates to stranger. Karma?
December 11, 2014 | by Nicole White
Two years ago, Joselyn Miller and her family sat together as stem cells from her brother’s bone marrow were infused into her – a precious gift of life that the family is excited to have the chance to pass to another patient in need.
Today, the stem cell recipient is healthy. Her 23-year-old son Rex, who joined Be the Match’s bone marrow registry during the Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion in support of his mother, has had a rare opportunity: He was found to be an ideal match for a 65-year-old man abroad who needed a stem cell transplant.
Rex donated stem cells at City of Hope on Nov. 18 – nearly two years to the day from his mother’s own bone marrow transplant.
“I’m so happy to have this opportunity to save someone else’s life,” Rex told the Orange County Register. “I’ve definitely understood how precious life is and how to treasure every day of your life. My mom is the strongest person I know, and I’m so lucky to still have her.”
Miller needed the lifesaving bone marrow transplant to treat aplastic anemia, a condition in which the body stops making enough new blood cells. In her case, the condition was spurred by a rare disease called Shulman’s syndrome; only about 300 cases of the disease have been recorded. The condition caused her arm and thigh muscles to become so rigid she could barely move them – nearly incomprehensible for a healthy, athletic woman who rarely even had the sniffles.
Miller saw 10 specialists and had more than 100 blood transfusions before being diagnosed with aplastic anemia at City of Hope. Her brother Leason Pomeroy was a match, and her bone marrow transplant was a success – though she says she only began to feel “normal” again over the summer. In her own words from her blog, Joselyn's Brawl With Shulman's Syndrome & Aplastic Anemia, she describes a visit to City of Hope for a blood test:
"I surveyed my fellow patients … and I realized I was the ONLY one without a wheelchair, dark glasses, beanie, barf bowl, PICC line, heart monitor, hospital gown, cane, oxygen, head scarf, nurse attendant, eye patch, IV tree or bandage. I gave the stuffed room a thorough recon and failed to glimpse a single patient without at least one of these accessories. Most had more than one. I had every one of them at some point during my brawl. It struck me – how far I’d come in the last 18 months.”
As a stem cell recipient, she described this experience as bringing her close to full circle. The circle was unquestionably completed when the family returned to City of Hope for Rex to donate stem cells. Joselyn and her husband Todd Miller both came to support their son; so did Rex’s uncle Leason – the two of them now bonded over having given someone else the gift of life.
“This gift, this honor to try to save a life, was bestowed upon Rex, and my family couldn’t be more overjoyed with this blessed opportunity,” Joselyn Miller wrote on Breakthroughs. “We’re talking a one in 600 chance. We’re talking miracle. We’re talking full circle. We’re talking karma. We’re talking life. We’re talking thankful.”
Learn more about becoming a patient or getting a second opinion at City of Hope by visiting our website or by calling 800-826-HOPE (4673). City of Hope staff will explain what's required for a consult at City of Hope and help you determine, before you come in, whether or not your insurance will pay for the appointment.