“Someone was depending on me … that is when it really sunk in that it was real.” Bopper’s Marrow Donation Story

Posted August 28th, 2013 by Be The Match and filed in Donor Stories
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BopperShortly after his 18th birthday and learning about Be The Match®, Bopper joined the registry at a recruitment drive at his high school. “I was excited. I was eager. I was ready for something that nobody in my family or anybody that I have ever talked to has done or experienced,” said Bopper. He wanted to be someone’s cure.

The donation journey

After two years on the registry, Bopper got the much anticipated news that he was a potential match for a patient in need of a marrow transplant. This news, however, came in a very unexpected way. After moving away from his hometown, Bopper forgot to update his contact information with Be The Match1. The letter notifying Bopper that he was a match was sent to his old address, and unfortunately didn’t reach Bopper in his new location. Through an exhaustive search that led to a former neighbor, the letter found its way to Bopper.

Upon hearing the news, Bopper immediately contacted Be The Match to proceed with additional testing to be sure he was the right match for this patient. The patient was having complications, which meant that Bopper would need to wait to donate until the patient was doing better. Throughout the whole process, Bopper continued to be committed and dedicated to moving forward with donation whenever he would get the call. “Someone was depending on me … that is when it really sunk in that it was real.”

About a year later, Bopper was able to donate. He educated his family and friends about the donation process after gaining more information from his donor center coordinator and he went into the procedure with confidence. He could not fully imagine what his transplant recipient was going through and was eager to help in any way he could. Bopper donated Peripheral Blood Stem Cells (PBSC), one of two methods of donation, and had a quick recovery with little to no pain.

From strangers to life-long friends

A year after donation, Bopper was able to receive the contact information of his recipient, Andy 2. Since then, their lives have been changed forever. “We stay in contact at least once a week” said Bopper, “I try to involve him in a lot of things that are going on in my life because, since then, he is a part of my life.” They have been able to visit each other numerous times and their relationship could not be stronger.

Bopper, who is now 25, keeps the first email exchange they had to remember their journey. “I like to come back and read those … There were so many experiences that you just can’t really describe. It was a fun experience that I would love to do again!”

Today, Andy is 22-years-old and going to school. He was able to make his dreams of helping others become a reality by becoming a volunteer firefighter, and he enjoys riding his motorcycle. “He is living life to the fullest,” said Bopper. “It makes me so happy to know that I could help him!”




1  To update your contact information please call 1(800)MARROW-2 or visit our website at www.BeTheMatch.org

2 A donor and patient may exchange contact information if the patient’s transplant center rules allow, it has been at least one year since transplant, and both donor and patient consent.

35 Responses to ““Someone was depending on me … that is when it really sunk in that it was real.” Bopper’s Marrow Donation Story”

  1. wanda berrios says:

    Good stories!!!

    I have two dreams and,one of my dreams is to return to others what God gave me. Being a donor!!!

    I was in the list more than ten years, Waiting to be part of this…

    GOD bless everyone working together to achieve patients dreams!

  2. Nancy says:

    this is uplifting but at the same time disheartening for myself. I too want to be someone’s cure — I’ve never been anybody’s anything. I was a preliminary match once shortly after joining the registry, but further tests proved I was not a match. I have not been on the registry for over twenty-five years, and only have a few more years left till my age will disqualify me (they want younger marrow than mine anyway).

    While it is good that Bopper was a match and Andy is well, every time I read these stories it is a double edged sword for me in that time after time I see people getting what I wanted to do or be, while time after time I must just “look on” but not be able to enter in….. nevertheless I am happy for you Andy and do not begrudge either one of you

    • Vicki says:

      Nancy – Do realize that even if you never receive the call to be an actual donor, you definitely can make a LIFE-SAVING difference by encouraging others to join the registry! Get out and volunteer/support the BE THE MATCH Registry recruitment drive during a local blood drive at a church or school, for example. Direct your young friends and relatives to the BE THE MATCH website for more information. Thank YOU for having the heart to help!

    • LN says:

      Hi Nancy,

      Your willingness to donate marrow means your heart is in the right place. If you are able and qualified, you might consider donating whole blood, red blood cells, platelets, or plasma at a any local blood donation center. You probably won’t be subject to an age limit and will be saving lives several times a year! See http://www.redcrossblood.org/donating-blood/eligibility-requirements for eligibility requirements. Although you won’t meet them, I guarantee there are adults and children in a nearby hospital who need your help today.


    • Ben Cooper says:

      Never give up hope. I have been in the registry for sixteen years, and just learned that I am a match for a two-year-old girl with leukemia. I lost my brother to childhood leukemia in 1965 (my son is named after him), and I have always dreamed of saving someone else’s son, daughter, brother, or sister. I don’t know whether I will ultimately be asked to donate (I told the registry representative, “I have only two questions: When? Where?”), but I have used this mere match to encourage my coworkers, friends, and fellow synagogue congregants to sign up. In particular, ethnic minorities are underrepresented yet often offer the best chance of finding a match. So don’t be disheartened: the person you inspire to register may be a match, and that makes you every much the hero as well! This is a team effort.

    • Avon says:

      Nancy, and all others like her and me,
      I’m pretty much resigned to the fact that I will almost certainly never be called on – I’m 60 and I’ll be off the list on my next birthday, besides being at the least eligible end of the donor age scale. I enrolled in 1986.

      Problem is, it was only in the past few years that the Registry advised people that there are 400 registered donors for every recipient, so the odds of actually donating in a lifetime are slim, even if you’re young. I’d never have felt so disappointed if I’d known all along. But if downplaying that fact helps move new folks to register (rather than feeling un-needed), then downplaying that fact has saved lives.

      Anyway, I did something about it. I switched from donating blood a few times a year to donating platelets. (I’m in the universal Platelet Donor blood group.) Platelets can be donated every 8 days, with quantity limits, and they’re used largely for chemotherapy patients. How grateful I was to have made the switch when a relative got cancer requiring chemo! I felt like I had actually started to do something for her.

      Just goes to show you – you never know, and there’s more than one way to be a donor. Maybe there’s a way for you.

      • Renee C says:

        Where do you donate your blood? I was unaware that you could do quantity limits. I normally donate platelets so that mainly cancer patients will have them, but I would love to be able to donate blood more than 5 or 6 times a year. Thank you

    • Linda says:

      Hi Nancy & Everyone!
      I too have been on the registry for many years (about 25 i think). I’ve never gotten the call or received my letter as a potential & would gladly give if called upon. BUT, let me share with you! My Son Dj is 24 & was diagnosed last year with a very aggresive t-cell lymphoma that only stayed in remission a few weeks after 8 grulling months of massive amounts of chemo. The cancer came back with vengence & had even went into his bone marrow. His only hope is a bone marrow transplant. His only sister is not a match & of course neither would I be or his Dad. Thank God for “Be the match”!! Dj had 5 potential matches come back! It has been narrowed down to two perfect matches for my Son. I CANNOT ever thank these people enough for their willingness to give life to my Son. Is it because I too was willing to give that he had so many potential matches come back or even one potential match?? Only God knows the answer to that but I believe when you are willing to help others in their time of need, God takes note! :). His Bone Marrow Transplant is coming up soon in November! We’re scared, excited, thankful, and BLESSED! CANNOT wait to meet his donor in a year from November if they are willing. How could I ever repay or thank them? I never could!

      • Mary Ellen says:

        How wonderful that a match has been found for your son! All the best to your family in the months ahead.

      • Melora says:

        Awesome news on a perfect match for your son!
        I signed up in 1997 – to see if I was a possible match for my husband’s cousin. Unfortunately, I was not a match for her and she ultimately died waiting for her match. Fast forward to 2013…I received a letter in the mail! I was a 98% match for a 65 year old gentleman! I was thrilled to be able to donate to him! I donated stem cells to him on July 18, 2013. I am looking forward to July 18, 2014 – I sincerely hope this gentleman is as eager to meet me as I am to meet him!
        P.S. My Great-nephew also has Leukemia – he has been battling it for 3 full years – he was diagnosed at the age of 2 (just one month after his birthday!) and guess what folks – he has his last chemotherapy/lumbar puncture in October AND HE GETS TO TO RING THE BELL!!! Talk about excitement!
        Please do not give up hope of becoming a donor – you never know when you will receive that letter….I had even forgotten I was even ON the list it had been so long!
        Bless everyone!

        • Linda says:

          Thanks Melora!
          So sorry to hear about your husband’s cousin & yes, we feel blessed and so greatful for the donor match! Words cannot possibly describe just how greatful we are. I know you are excited to have the opportunity to meet your match. That is awesome!! So thoughful of you to give the chance at life to another individual… You Rock! 🙂
          Will be praying for your great nephew! We have close friends who’s one year old daughter was diagnosed with Leukemia a week after my Son’s diagnosis. She is doing great with her maintenance treatment & getting stronger by the day. Thanks for the well wishes & continue to keep us in prayer if you will. God Bless You!

      • Lynn says:

        I will keep your son and your family in my prayers! All the Best
        I too have been on the registry for about 22 years…

    • Mickey Morgan says:

      On the other hand Nancy, nobody that you match has been sick enough to need your help but you were there if they did.
      You got that going for you.

    • Andrea says:

      Nancy, we lead by example. Continue to encourage others to get swabbed, that’s one way to keep the hope after we age-out. Organize a swabbing event at your house of worship, township, school. You have set a great example, be proud!

  3. Bob says:


    Please don’t despair about not being picked to donate yet. You are still part of the cure. We all are. Whenever a match is found, it is partly due to the large number of potential donors who have made a commitment to help — that is the key first step to all of the successful matches. And without a critical mass of willing donors like you and me, the registry couldn’t have continued and Bopper’s contribution couldn’t have happened, either.

    Don’t get me wrong — we should celebrate Bopper’s commitment to see it through so enthusiastically. But it is a success for all of us who sign up as well.

    So I say to you, Nancy, Well done!


  4. Terri says:

    Nancy – giving blood regularly is another way to keep helping. Blood donations saved our 7 year old daughter’s life and although it’s anonymous, I couldn’t be more grateful and I make sure I give back by giving blood too!

  5. Jeff S. says:

    Nancy , I am 56 yrs. old and just donated PBSC in June,2013 for a 22 yr. old not sure what age they count you out, cause I was a perfect match I’m told, so if a younger is a close match, you just might perfect yourself into the donating if the Dr. for the patient decides your the best chance the patient has, and yes I would do it again in a heartbeat the feeling is overwhelming, so keep on donating at your blood center, apheresis or what ever you can cause it all helps….


  6. Janice Rogers says:

    Hi Everyone,
    I am the recipient of PBSC. I received my cells in 2006. I have lived the past 7 years medicine free as a result of this. My sister actually matched and was my donor. I was very lucky, actually blessed is the word I need. Most people don’t have a sibling match and that is where all of you come in. So, please don’t get discouraged and never give up. There are so many people looking for matches and so many that never find one. Because of all of you many have a chance at a longer life, so thank you all and God Bless you.

  7. Lori S says:

    You may not be able to donate bone marrow but you can help Leukemia and Cancer patients by donating platelets. Yes this takes a bit more time than a blood donation, but it is so easy and so needed. My father who succumbed to his lymphoma was in need of platelets and the hospital could not keep up with supply and he was not the only patient waiting. You can help to save a life with platelets!

  8. Yvonne says:

    Glad to read these responses because I have been on the list for many years and never contacted. I do donate blood as well. I so hope my phone rings one day and I can be a match for someone.
    God bless all who are a part of this process.

  9. Beth K says:

    I’ve been on the list for many years, and was told when I signed up that chances are very small I’d be selected, but how sad if I could have been a match and not signed up!

    People have mentioned platelets several times, and I want to throw in my support for this life-saving donation. The process takes a couple of hours but is reallly easy to do. The main reason I got into donating platelets is because of their extraordinarily short shelf-life. Platelets are only good for FIVE days! There is always a need and never enough. Please look into donating platelets at your local blood center. You will definitely be saving a life!

  10. Mary Ellen says:

    I have been on the registry for decades. I have been called 3 times. The first two times didn’t go far. The third time I was determined to be a good match and was put on hold, something the person who called me said she had never heard of before. That call never resulted in a donation either. In less than 4 months I will “age out” of the registry. It does make me sad that I have never been able to make that donation, but at least I know I was there and ready had I been the needed match.

  11. Donna says:

    My middle son was diagnosed with a bone marrow failure disease in 2008 as a teenager. Because his body wasn’t producing any blood cells, he was able to live because of blood donors until he received a marrow transplant. My youngest son was a perfect match for him. I don’t know any of the people who gave of themselves but I was so grateful for those bags of platelets and red blood cells the nurses brought into his hospital room. I hope those people know how much they’re appreciated. Love to all of you!

    • Linda says:

      Hope your Son is still doing great after the BMT. I too am greatful for those many bags of platelets and red blood cells donated! I’ve lost count of how many my Son has received thus far & continues to receive (actually four this week already). God Bless the Donors!

  12. Margaret says:

    I have been on the donor list since 9/11. I have been called twice as a potential match. Ultimately, they went with someone else both times. I am here if they need me for this gift of life. I only have 10 years left on the Registry. If they don’t use me, okay, but at least I volunteered to save someone’s life and give them that chance. It is better to have a chance than no chance which is what would happen if all us had not added our names to the Registry.

  13. Tina Chism says:

    I have been on the marrow list since 2000, I was 20 at the time. I have never been called, but I always keep my information up to date just in case. I do encourage others to sign up as well. Raising awareness has been my call to action. Yes I may never be a match for anyone, but I took the first step which is just as important. It is also for the same reason I am an organ donor. I may never be in a situation where my organs are used, but taking that initial step is so very, very important.

  14. Donna says:

    Dear Nancy and everyone else who has been on the list and never called. I too have been on the list for several years. I received an email last year from Be The Match telling me that I have a very unusual tissue type and the chance of being called as a donor is very slim. However, the letter also said that if I was called, I may be the only one out of millions on the registry to be the donor. I immediately recommitted. You see, it is all the Nancy’s that because I have this rare tissue type and if I get ill, you may be the one saving my life and for that I thank you all for hanging in there.

  15. Mary Ellen says:

    Thanks to reading everyone’s posts here, I realized I have 1 year and 4 months before I age out of the registry. I am delighted that there are 12 more months than I had thought for me to be a possible match!

    One thing I keep thinking, and I have had to remember this each time I have been called and then not ended up donating ~ as excited as I would be to help someone, it isn’t about me at all. It is about the patient who needs the best chance possible. My disappointment in not being chosen means nothing compared to what the patient who is wiating is going through. As I’ve thought this over this week I am more committed than ever to spreading the word so that more people will join the registry. Finding the best match is what it’s all about. The more people we each bring in, the greater the chances for every patient out there.

  16. Christine Franks says:

    I signed up in 1991 and didn’t get called to donate until 2009. My recipient didn’t make it I found out at the 6 month mark. I had to grieve just like it was a death in my family. Since then I have matched 2 more people. It is one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. I strongly encourage people to sign up for the registry. It is something that is so easy to do. It’s kind of mind blowing to think that your cells are living on in someone else.

  17. Carmensrt says:

    I’ll echo what others have said about blood (and blood products) donation. No, I’ve not been called for bone marrow donation BUT I’ve given over 6 gallons of blood. I’ll never know what that blood accomplished, but it almost certainly is responsible for people walking the earth today that would not still be alive without my donations.

    If you do not donate blood now, please do so. It’s an amazing way to help your fellow human beings.

  18. Andy Jensen says:

    Thanks Bopper. I like the article. Can’t express my appreciation in words. Love you buddy. -Andy

  19. Beth says:

    Thank you Bopper, for your willingness to be a donor, and for sharing your story. My husband recently received his transplant from an unknown donor. We are so grateful every day for the donation that a stranger was willing to make so that my husband could live. Donors are very special angels, as are all the people who sign up to be on the registry. Thank you!

  20. Jeremy says:

    I donated marrow 4 years ago. Someone asked me why I did it one. I replied, “they needed it more than I did”

  21. Elaine Dryer says:

    Awesome article indeed! Thank you, Bopper, for your life-giving donation to Andy! To read this article gives me shivers as four years ago we all had no idea how this was all going to turn out! I’ve registered and would in an instance follow in your steps! Thank you for your courage!

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