On Wednesday evening, I got an email. It began with a short sentence that almost stopped my heart cold. I know that I stopped breathing for a few seconds while I read it.
You are a match for a specific patient with leukemia who is in urgent need of a marrow transplant.
When you registered on 6/26/2011, you did so knowing that one day you could help save a life. Now someone is waiting for your response, and time is of the essence. Less than 1% of donors are matched with patients.
My first thought? This might be spam.
Then I realized the exact same email had been sent to both my home and work accounts. “Wow. This is real,” I thought. The email had a phone number for me to contact Amy, the donor coordinator. I immediately wanted to call her. But, the email had been sent at 4:49 pm, and their offices had closed at 5.
I spent the next hour and a half in a kind of daze. I was at my son’s baseball game. I had only been able to briefly scan the message while getting the kids all loaded into the van and heading out to the game. Now, my iPhone was in my pocket, and I felt the weight of it against my hip. It felt like a lead brick. It was almost all I could do not to pull the phone out and read the email line by line, word by word, letter by letter. I couldn’t think straight, I couldn’t sit still. In fact, I stood the whole time.
My parents also came to the game, and I told my dad quickly about the email I had gotten. He looked at me in a sort of disbelief for a second. He’s been on the bone marrow registry for years and has never gotten a call. Both of my parents seemed to assume that this was just an initial match, that there would be much more testing involved to determine if I was really a match.
When I got home and got the kids in bed, I posted a short note on my personal Facebook page. I had to tell someone. I spent the rest of the evening alternating between tears and anxiety. I am not good at waiting, I wanted to know what was going on RIGHT NOW. It wasn’t that I was questioning whether I would do this. That was decided the second I saw that sentence in the email. It was waiting to get started that was killing me.
Finally, Thursday rolled around, and then finally, after what seemed like the longest hour and a half ever, it was after 8:00. The offices were open, I could call them back!
I called Amy, and she talked to me about the donor process, what the next steps would be. She explained how the next step in the process was to fill out a health questionnaire, then have a blood sample drawn for additional testing. I asked her how likely it was that I was not going to be a match after the blood testing. She told me that unless there had been a problem with my sample, that it was likely that I was an excellent match. The blood sample validates the match that they did against the cheek swab I sent in last summer, as well as checks for any infections or other diseases that might make it unsafe for the patient to receive my donation.
After the blood sample is checked, within a week we’ll know if I’m still a good donor. Then, the patient’s doctor will review the results and determine how to proceed. I could be donating bone marrow as early as the end of July, or perhaps not until September. They’ll give me 3-4 weeks notice so I have time to prepare.
So, I went back to my desk, filled out the health questionnaire, and sent it in. I think she probably had it within 10 minutes of our conversation.
A few hours later, she called me again, and we scheduled a blood draw for next Thursday. I wanted to do it as soon as possible, (like the next day), but unfortunately that isn’t possible. They have to ship a kit to the lab that will do the blood draw, and with the 4th of July holiday coming up, they need to make sure that when the samples and results are shipped, they can be received the next day. A mid-week holiday causes issues with that.
So on Thursday I will go in for my blood draw. I wish it was going to be today, or Monday. There’s a cancer patient out there that needs me. I would donate my bone marrow tomorrow if I could.
If you know me at all, you probably know that I’m a pretty down to earth person. I’m not super religious, I don’t honestly believe much in luck, I think that life is what you make of it. I like to believe that I’m in control of my own destiny. I tend to think that things happen by coincidence. I’m an engineer, and I find it hard to accept things on faith alone. I need proof. But, then, there are times, like Wednesday, that make me question just how much I think I know.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a few months you may have figured out that my best friend Bean died from leukemia. His short life has impacted mine in ways I can’t even understand. I wouldn’t be on the bone marrow registry if it weren’t for him. I probably wouldn’t be a runner if it wasn’t for him. I wrote a few weeks ago about the connection between Pink Floyd and my relationship with Bean.
About a week ago I was having a low point and I started talking to Bean. Some people pray, I talk to Bean. I asked him for a sign that there was more to life than just living day to day. Some kind of sign that everything is okay, and that there is some sort of higher power, some life after death, or something like that.
On Wednesday, a new XM Radio channel started to broadcast. I’d been looking forward to this since Memorial Day weekend, when they had announced that the Pink Floyd Channel was coming up. I had to run to the grocery store over lunch Wednesday to pick up snacks and drinks for the baseball game. I got into the car just minutes after the station went on the air. I was so excited, that drive to the store was electrifying (I really do love Pink Floyd). They were airing a live interview with Roger Waters, one of the band’s founders. After my short run to the grocery store, I got back in the car for the short (2 minute) drive back. They were taking calls from listeners.
A man called in to the station. He started to tell the story of his son, who loved Pink Floyd. While they were in the hospital, he and his son would listen to Pink Floyd together to get through his leukemia treatments. I don’t remember, or maybe he didn’t say, if his son had survived cancer. He went on to ask some questions about how Waters’ childhood had influenced his music, and whether playing with his son now had brought everything full circle.
Is it chance that I happened to listen to the station exactly when this man called in? Perhaps. Or maybe it was some unseen force trying to tell me that something big was going to happen to me later that day. I don’t know, and I don’t care. I just know that Wednesday was a good day.