Patient-donor story: A special connection

Posted September 21st, 2011 by Be The Match and filed in Donor Stories, Patient Stories
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Barry (donor) and Reggie (transplant recipient) walkingReggie, a young boy from San Antonio, Texas, loves football — especially the Dallas Cowboys! John “Barry” Williams, a married father of four from Georgia, works at an air force base as an electronics technician.  What do these two have in common?  The gift of life!

Reggie

At age 11, Reggie spent his time playing video games and being a super uncle to his nephews and nieces. He was a caring and responsible kid, so his mother, Tina, found it strange when he told her he was too tired to take out the trash. Thinking he was just trying to get out of his chores, Tina reminded him that the trash was his responsibility. But when he mentioned that his bones hurt and his ankles ached, she grew concerned. And when he suddenly started experiencing flu-like symptoms, his father rushed him to the emergency room.

Blood work revealed that Reggie had acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Tina, who knew nothing about leukemia or transplants, immediately thought, “I’m going to lose my child.” But they got help. Be The Match Foundation® and the National Marrow Donor Program® provided them with the educational resources, financial assistance and support network to ease their fears and prepare them for the transplant journey.

Barry

Across the country in Warner Robins, Georgia, Barry was living a typical life with his wife and four children. His job at Robins Air Force Base and activities with his kids kept him busy and satisfied.

But in 2009 when Barry got the call that he might be a marrow match for a patient, his life changed. Excited, he thought, “Now I can possibly help someone.” At the same time, he tried not to get his hopes up too high. He knew that being a possible match doesn’t always mean that you will be the match.

But Barry did indeed turn out to be the best possible match for Reggie. When informed that he would be donating to an 11-year-old boy, the closeness in age to his own 9-year-old son really made an impact. All he could think about was what the family must be going through. He hoped that if something like that ever happened to his son, there would be someone out there who would do the same.

A successful transplant

Reggie had a successful transplant at age 11. Recovery was challenging, and for a while he fell behind in school and didn’t maintain his grade level. But Reggie was determined to catch up, and he did. In fact, he studied so much that he was able to advance back into his old grade level. He was even named “Student of the Year”!

More than a year later, Reggie and Barry met for the very first time at Be The Match Foundation’s annual gala, Tribute to Patients: Celebrating Life, held in Minneapolis. The audience was deeply moved when Reggie and Barry exchanged a heartfelt embrace while surrounded by their loving families.

Barry and Reggie

4 Responses to “Patient-donor story: A special connection”

  1. Molly Warmelink says:

    Just an incredible story! I’m SO very proud of Barry! We are blessed beyond measure to not only be moved by this story, but to have Barry in our family!!! Love to both families! Congratulations on the gift that this is!!!

  2. Linda Nasca says:

    What a blessing when someone can donate a part of themself to help save another human’s life. This has been a great story to follow. From the time of the bone marrow donation until now has been one of the best experiences to see God making it possible for this event to happen. What a wonderful donor and receiver. Reggie is a warm, loving, adorable child that needed a second chance at life. WOW…he got it. The donor is just beside himself with excitement for the child…the donor also is a warm, caring, wonderful human being and I am so very HAPPY and THANKFUL that God gave him to me as a SON. I love you Barry and Reggie also.

  3. Agamemnon Daniel says:

    I was in the “bubble” 7 ½ weeks altogether. I had acute graft-versus-host disease (a common side effect of transplant in which the donated cells attack the patient’s body), and it took a long time for my blood counts to come back up. One day when I got a blood transfusion, the bag of blood was labeled a different blood type. This was a major turning point in my recovery because it meant my new marrow was now producing my blood – my blood type had changed to that of my donor’s. It meant the first stage of success.

  4. Akshay Bhargava says:

    I am a receipent of Bone Marrow through NMDP.My entire family is extremely greatful to the Donor but we are not able to convey our gratitude as we have no idea who she is But we all wish her the very best in life

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