Donor & Recipient First Meetings

Miracle matches, meet their anonymous donor

When a child needs a bone marrow or stem cell transplant, only 30% of the time can a compatible matching donor be found within the family. The next step in the search for that perfect match is through the national and international data bases of millions of volunteers who registered their unique DNA typing and are willing to donate if ever matched with a patient. Annually, at the Hats & Heroes Ball, Kids Beating Cancer brings together one miracle match, a child and their anonymous donor to meet for the first time on stage.

Children are given a second chance at life, their only hope for a cure, by the generosity of someone they do not know, and never expect to meet. This is their stories…

Fiona and Michael’s stories

Fiona’s story (Patient)

Michael’s story (Donor)

We would like to share the story of a young, 23-year-old, who attended a bone marrow donor recruitment drive by the St Louis Cardinals baseball team for a St. Louis child in need of a life-saving transplant. After registering, he did not hear anything back from the national registry until January 2018, 15 years later. He got an amazing phone call, letting him know he was a match for a child in Florida asking him if he was still willing to be a volunteer bone marrow donor. Now a father himself, he couldn’t imagine turning down the opportunity to save a child’s life. The donation wasn’t easy, he had to travel to Kansas City to donate marrow from his pelvic bones under general anesthesia. This man that gave Fiona a second chance at life, entered the stage at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando at the 2019 Hats & Heroes Ball and met Fiona and her family for the very first time. Magical!

Michael and Laura’s story

Michael’s story (Patient)

Laura’s story (Donor)

Laura was a junior nursing student in Seattle Washington. She signed up with Be The Match marrow registry three years before getting  the call to donate in September 2016. It was her first week of her first year of college, but she knew how rare it was for a patient to find a match so she decided to go through with the donation. She spent Thanksgiving break that year recovering from the surgery while studying for finals, but she wouldn’t want to spend it any other way. When she was a baby she needed many blood transfusions to survive due to a complication during birth. Those blood donations saved her life twenty years ago. She felt that the call to donate in 2016 was the universe’s way of asking her to pass on the gift that she was given. When she donated, she knew that her marrow would be used but she was very worried about rejection or other complications. When she learned  that her donation actually saved a life, she was overjoyed. She remember reading the email and shaking with happiness, “I couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the day.”

Kenza and Jazmine’s stories

Kenza’s story (Patient)

Kenza was born in Morocco on January 17, 2001 . On her 14th birthday, in 2015, she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia and started chemotherapy lasting one year. After she finished, her parents promised her a vacation in Orlando.  While here, she wasn’t feeling good and unfortunately she had relapsedand was unable to go hometo Morocco.  Instead, she started a second round of Chemotherapy at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children.

During this treatment, it was determined that she needed a bone-marrow transplant in order to recover. However, after checking her sister, her parents, and other relations, no one was a compatible match for Kenza. She was feeling very blessed when she was told an un-related donor had been identified in the US who could save her life. Kenza got the bone-marrow transplant on August 12th, 2016 at the Kids Beating Cancer Pediatric Transplant Center.

Kenza’s family expressed they are so thankful for the opportunity that was given to them and for all the help and support they received from everyone: the doctors and nurses at the Kids Beating Cancer Pediatric Transplant Center.  Most importantly Kenza is thankful for Jazmine, her life-saving unrelated donor.

Jazmine’s story (Donor)

“I got several missed calls from the same number When I finally answered, I had forgotten what I had done almost a year prior. “Are you still interested in being a donor? Oh my, I didn’t know what to say. There was a tiny part of me that was about to say no. But I heard myself saying yes. I heard her say that we needed to move quickly. I had to call my mom to let her know what I just agreed too. “Well, I blurted out, I got a call and I agreed to be a bone marrow donor…or a blood donor. I’m a match to someone with cancer.”

The next few days were a blur. A constant state of weighing the pros and cons. Constantly being told how wonderful it was what I was doing, being thanked. Finally, I told everyone who was doubtful about me going through with it that I signed up for a reason. I’m a match, and I will not give the kid or their parents false hope.

My mom flew with me. After the surgery, we made a great discovery: hydrocodone does not work with me. I was tossing and turning and hurting. I called the nurse and unfortunately was told that they couldn’t give me any other type of pain meds except alieve and to take Benadryl for the allergic reaction. I’m allergic to Benadryl.

Flying out was also great fun. My hip gave an ugly pop, and the wheelchair was hard and uncomfortable, but I made it home, I recovered. Kenza recovered and we both have battle scars to tell two sides to one story. I saved her. It’s amazing that out of everyone in the pool of donors. I was the one to be picked.”

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