Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion: What patients and donors have to say

April 30, 2015 | by Denise Heady


BMT reunion 2014 On Friday, May 1, 2015, at the 39th annual Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion, two patients will meet the donors who saved them. The moments are deeply personal but also universal in their expressions of gratitude and humanity. Shown here: Group reunion shot from 2014.


“Superheroes,” “grateful” and “lifesavers”: All are words patients have used to describe their bone marrow donors. For donors, "a great feeling" and "the right thing to do" seems to sum up their view of donating the stem cells used to save someone's life.

Bone marrow transplants offer a second chance at life for people with life-threatening blood cancers and other hematologic malignancies. City of Hope performed its first bone marrow transplant in 1976. Since then, thousands of patients from virtually every state and dozens of countries have undergone bone marrow, cord blood or stem cell transplants at City of Hope.

But many recipients, though overwhelmed with curiosity and the need to express their gratitude, can only dream of meeting the strangers who helped them defeat their disease. Each year, City of Hope makes that dream come true for two patients at the annual Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion.

On Friday, May 1, at the 39th annual Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion, two more patients and their families will meet the donors who saved them. Each experience will be unique and deeply personal, but the words of past donors and patients offer a glimpse into the power of the moment:{C}

Patient: Kayla Saikaly, 18

“Getting the bone marrow means everything in my life,” Kayla Saikaly said. “I wouldn’t be able to live my life and do what I want to do. I’m very grateful.”

"She's totally a hero," Kayla said, referring to her donor Adi Versano. "She saved my life. That's what superheroes do, right?"

Donor: Adi Versano, 27          

"It’s the most important thing a human can do,” said Adi Versano, of becoming a donor. “In order to prevent this pain in others, I decided to do this. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, a privilege that only a few get to have. It’s like finding a new sister after you didn’t know you had one.”

“It’s just blood,” she said. “It’s not an organ, just blood. For me, it’s almost nothing. But for the patient, it’s life.  It’s everything to her.”

Patient: George Winston, 66 

“She’s a world away, and we’ve never met, but we’re, in a way, ‘genetic twins,’” George Winston said of his donor Antonia Klyn, marveling at this new connection. “It’s amazing how they can locate a donor. I can’t wait to meet her and just thank her from the bottom of my heart.”

Donor: Antonia Klyn, 23  

“In my opinion, healthy people should help ill people . I’m happy that I did this, but I don’t see myself as a lifesaver or something,” said Antonia Klyn. “I don’t have relatives or friends with cancer,” she said. “I just thought it’s the right thing to do. I’m a young, healthy woman, and I wanted to help somebody who needs my help. And, of course, I know that there is always the possibility that someone in my family or one of my friends gets ill. If that would happen, I would hope that there is a donor.”

“Some people still think that this donation is a huge surgery which can be pretty complicated – and it’s not,” she said. “And I think a lot of people believe that the possibility that they are potential match is too small. So they don’t even try.”

Patient: Ryan Compton, 10

“You gave our young son a second chance at life when it seemed that all his options had run out,” Ryan's mother Maggie Compton wrote to Barry Crackett. “You must have a superhero’s immune system and energy, because that is what you gave him when you shared your marrow.” Looking at the boy who loves swimming and karate, and is so boundlessly energetic he’ll start running during a four-mile walk, “it’s hard to tell now that he was ever sick,” she said.

“We want you to know that we live more deeply because of this entire experience and also because of the second chance at life that you gave our son,” added Compton.

Donor: Barry Crackett, 36

“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,” said Barry Crackett.

“Every extra person on the registry increases the chances of finding a match,” he said. “I just hope that if my baby ever needed a donation there would be someone to step up.”

Patient: Joseph Mandel, 66      

“You’re not only saving the recipient’s life; you’re also saving the lives of the family,” Joseph Mandel said of his donor Nevo Segal.

"The old cliché, ‘Life’s pretty short’ is true,” he says. “I could have been dead at 61. Thank God for my donor and may God bless him.”

Donor: Nevo Segal, 28

“I think that one cannot refuse an offer to help save someone’s life,” said Nevo Segal.

“I think that what I did was just a small part of the chain organized by medical centers around the world. I believe that the people working in these medical centers like City of Hope deserve all the credit.” Still, he admits, “Knowing that even in the slightest way you helped save a life is a great feeling.”


Learn more about becoming a patient or getting a second opinion by visiting our website or by calling 800-826-HOPE (4673). You may also request a new patient appointment online. 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.





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