A surprise marrow donation “forever engraved in our hearts”

Posted February 9th, 2016 by Be The Match and filed in News
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ZachandSavannahA little more than two years ago, my boyfriend, Zac, joined the Be The Match Registry® in hopes to be a match for a family member who was in need of a marrow transplant. Unfortunately, he was not a match, but luckily that didn’t end his journey with Be The Match.

Several months later, Zac got a call from Be The Match explaining that he was a match for a patient in need of a marrow transplant. The patient had a rare blood disorder called myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS).

Without a single doubt, Zac said yes and started his amazing journey to becoming a marrow donor. However, Zac’s journey was far from normal. He decided not to tell a soul about this amazing and selfless act of agreeing to be a patient’s marrow donor. He kept it a secret for months; neither his parents, his brother, nor I (his girlfriend) knew. Months passed by, still, no one knew.

Prior to the start of his journey, Zac moved to Florida temporarily for work from North Carolina, where his family and I reside. I received a call from him one day a few months after his move and after his discovery of being a match, and he explained that he had a surprise for me. He was flying me down to Florida for five days so we could spend some time together. He told me he had so much planned for us and tons of surprises. Automatically, I thought we were heading out to the West Coast of Florida to fish (this was our favorite activity to do together).

The trip came along quickly. Upon my arrival in Florida and meeting up with Zac, we had lunch together. At lunch, he asked me if I wanted to know what my surprises were for the weekend — of course I said yes! He then proceeded to tell me that he was donating marrow the next day and that we were leaving in thirty minutes to go to the hospital to complete the necessary blood work.

“Wow,” I thought. I was in complete shock. He went on to tell me what was going to happen the next day, why I was there and our itinerary for the next 72 hours. Nerves were shaken, questions were raised and prayers were prayed for a smooth recovery.

His surgery followed and everything went as planned. Zac did great. He was an ideal patient in the doctor’s eyes, and an amazing man of mine. Soon after surgery, Zac called both of his parents to tell them what he had done and that he was doing well. The shock continued, tears fell, everlasting love was given and hope for a man with a life-threatening disease was gained.

I was so honored to be part of this special day in Zac’s life. It was not only a life-changing day for him, but a life-changing day for me. We both knew, as a couple, that this would change our lives indefinitely. His marrow donation date will forever be engraved in our hearts as the day Zac saved a man’s life that he had never met. He received notification in the following months that the patient he donated to was doing great. We hope to be able to meet his match in the following year. How amazing is that?

Since Zac’s donation, our mission has been to get involved with Be The Match and encourage others to join the registry so they can experience the satisfaction that Zac had after donating. I even got involved as a Be The Match Community Engagement Intern in the Charlotte area.

Zac and I are both extremely thankful to have had such an amazing organization like Be The Match, to organize, support and captivate us. Helping blood cancer patients find hope is beyond worthwhile. Our lives are forever changed.

44 Responses to “A surprise marrow donation “forever engraved in our hearts””

  1. Sam Sullivan says:

    There are few greater joys than profoundly helping someone you don’t even know just because it is the right thing to do.

    Kudos to Zac!

    • Mary Lou says:

      What is engagement intern she became involved with? Article didnt explain this information. Would assume they assist with drives or getting word out re bone marrow donations. Good job. Have worked as visiting nurse administering ? Neupogen.pt’s get just prior to donation and have been on regisrty list for over 20 years. Never called yet. Guess never know if you’ll get called. God bless.

  2. Melissa H. says:

    So inspiring and uplifting! Way to be awesome, Zac!!!

  3. Jenny Reid says:

    My son suffered from MDS 12 years ago and due to the selflessness of someone like Zac will soon be celebrating another year cancer free. Thank you to Zac, our donor and others that have donated. You are indeed heroes!

  4. Tami Cooke says:

    I joined the registry about 20 years ago. My primary objective: I had two young sons, and if they ever needed a donor, I hoped they would find one; therefore, I joined to do the same for someone else. Well, they are grown now, and I have a gorgeous granddaughter. I stay on the registry for her.

  5. Susa m Geci says:

    Great job to two wonderful people!

  6. Catherine says:

    Way to go Zach. I’ve been on the registry for over 25 years and still wishing I could help someone. That would be an awesome feeling.

  7. Laurie says:

    So wonderful and selfless! Inspiring!

  8. Pam says:

    AWESOME!! I organized a donor drive – and myself joined the registry, many years ago during a time when a relative child approximately 5 yrs old at the time was fighting leukemia in 2nd year and needed a marrow transplant. At the same time my husband had a coworker who’s daughter – a freshman in college – also was fighting leukemia and seeking a marrow transplant. Our little girl lost her battle, never finding the matching donor and the college student had a successful transplant and is now a DOCTOR! I was called once as a possible match for a person unknown but did not match closely enough in the 2nd round of testing. I cried and cried in disappointment that I couldn’t “be the one” for him. Now I am nearing the time when due to age I will no longer be eligible to be a donor and I am very sad that I will have to come off the list of possible donors. THANK GOD FOR ZAC AND THE OTHERS WHO HAVE TRULY GIVEN A 2ND CHANCE TO THOSE IN THE FIGHT!

    • Peggi says:

      In response to Pam…I am also getting closer to the age when I will no longer be eligible to be a donor and am quite sad about that. I have been on the list for many, many years with no call to “Be A Match”. Knowing there are so many others on the list who have not been called comforts my own disappointment. At the same time, I am joyful when I read about successful transplants, just wish I could have contributed.
      This was a great story…

      • Tammie says:

        I too have been on the registry for years. I joined when my best friend from childhood needed a transplant. I was not her match, however her brother was, and she was able to watch her daughter grow up and is enjoying her grandchild! I’m ready if the call comes! A coworkers baby was diagnosed with M7 AML at 11 months old. Thanks to selfless people, she will be receiving her transplant within the next few weeks. Disappointed that within a few years, I will age out, and no longer be eligible to donate. I suppose there are really good reasons. So kudos to Zac and every donor out there! We are all proof that there are awesome humans in this world!!!

    • Katina says:

      Bless all who are on the list. I joined the list nearly 20 years ago because it was the right thing to do. When notified once that I was a preliminary match I cried with joy. Then when I was not the “perfect match” again I cried and cried, wept and prayed that someone else could be “the one” for “my person”. I also soon will be the age to be taken off the list. Maybe I gave someone hope even for a few days. I would do it all over again.

    • Barb says:

      What is the age? I never knew there was a cut off age to donate!

    • Jenny says:

      What is the age when you become ineligible to donate?

      • Be The Match says:

        Hi Jenny,

        Great question! You must be at 18 years of age to donate. To learn more about age requirements please visit: https://bethematch.org/transplant-basics/matching-patients-with-donors/why-donor-age-matters/

        Let us know if you have any other questions!

        Best,
        Be The Match

  9. Cindy says:

    He sounds like a keeper!!!

  10. Lee c says:

    Always great to hear stories like this,I was on the registry almost 1 year to the date I joined when I got the call. I was so thankful to be given the chance to save or at least improve someone’s life. I don’t think I could ever had kept this from my family, must have been very tough. Hopefully I’ll get an update on the individual who received my marrow but I may never know since I later found out this was an international donation.

  11. Elaine Whisler says:

    What a wonderful story.

    I had a close friend who passed away 9 years ago from Multiple Myeloma. Prior to his passing I asked if there was anything I could do to help. He said yes, please register to be a bone marrow donor. He said perhaps you will never be called but the chance that you are a match will save a life. I made that promise and the next couple of weeks I was on the list. It’s been 10 years and although I have never been called, I find peace in knowing that I fulfilled that request from my friend. We need more people to be lifeguards in anticipation to help save a life. Thank you Zac for living selflessly for someone else’s chance at life.

  12. Kathy Hladik says:

    What a great story! I got on the registry about 20 years ago, because of a donor drive for one little girl. I still wait to get a call- I would be so honored to have the opportunity to give such a little part of me, to help someone! I can’t wait to be called! Thanks for sharing that story~ thank you Zac!

  13. Tony Fetrow says:

    Zac is the epitome of what every parent hopes their child will grow up to be. Humility is a quality rarely seen in people anymore. That is why “Be the Match” is such an awesome resource and organization. Well done Zac!! Best of luck to you.

    • Tammie says:

      Proud mama moment when my daughter joined. My daughter was hoping to match my coworkers daughter. She was not the match, and yes a match was found, but she is committed to this cause. So yes Tony, a lot of us are raising kids that grow into selfless adults. And this will always be a good thing!

  14. Ed says:

    I donated for my son back in 1986, but only matched him 75% which would never happen today. I’m guessing I’m still on the registry list since I receive emails. I have never been called but would gladly donate again. I hear the process is not as invasive as back in 86. My son was diagnosed at 8 months with adult leukemia and was the youngest transplant patient Hopkins ever did. He passed away in 87, but was cancer free. I am glad there are people out there like me who would help at the drop of a hat.

  15. Srini says:

    Zac & Savannah: You are the reason why life is filled with hope all around.

    As selfless as Zac’s benevolent act is, he would not have done it without support from Savannah and his parents.

    Great job all around, and may you guys continue to be an inspiration for all of us.

  16. Dan says:

    Well that made a grown man cry ! Great story.

    “Be the Match” for over 20 years
    Dan

  17. Lorie says:

    What a wonderfully heart warming story! Thank God for people like you Zac! I’m hopeful that your recipient will continue to improve and enjoy a long and healthy life.
    I hope that I will get the call someday to help someone in such a way, I can only imagine how gratifying that must be.

  18. Monique Parsons says:

    Zac, you are truly a ray of light. May your heart be blessed with ten times the joy you’ve given to your recipient.

    And to all the others who are on the list — even if you’re never called, you are still very much appreciated for your selfless commitment.

    I’ve been on the list for around 5 years… was called once, and ended up not being the most ideal match. There’s something so spiritually life affirming about being able to possibly save someone. It makes me happy that this opportunity even exists.

  19. Bo says:

    very inspiring! I joined be the match in 2000, I received a call in 2006 1 month before I was to deploy to Iraq. I told them I would be more then willing to donate instead of deploying it just made more sense to do something that would save a life then go somewhere possibly I would have to take a life. I was informed I was one of 6 possible matches and that they would put me last on the list because of my commitment with the military. I never heard what happened to the individual who needed a donation and I never heard from the organization again about it. but what Zac did with the support of his girlfriend Savannah and his family is why I remain on the list and hope that one day I will get the call and can donate and give someone the potential of a full life. Bravo Zulu Zac for your selflessness.

  20. Allason says:

    I have been in the registry for 25+yrs. was called on about 5yrs ago but as I went thru the process they found a closer match than mine. That’s ok because at least they had someone! I will continue to be on the list as long as I can …u just never know who or when you might be needed!

  21. Karen Fameli says:

    I too joined years ago and have not been called. But being a part of this community of people who have joined together to be available if needed is such a blessing! This is truly a working example of Loving your Neighbor!

    Way to go Zac! And all of you for being a part of Be the Match!

    God Bless You! 🙂

  22. Irene says:

    I hope to some day be able to help someone also. You are a great person Zac! God’s blessings to you both!

  23. Chris says:

    I was honored to be a donor in 1993 for a young boy of 8 years. I had registered for a young man in our community who passed before a donor was found. I still count the experience as one of the greatest in my life. I never met Davor, but his mom communicated with me for some time. It would be lovely to meet him someday. I was also a partial match for a different unknown recipient. Keep on the registry. You never know.

  24. Jessica Angell says:

    Oh my…this story made me cry! You sound like an amazing couple! I’ve been on the registry for more than 20 years now and still hope I get that call!

  25. Carol A Miller says:

    Hi Everyone
    I am the Match and it was Wonderful to be able to help save another life. She is 2 years younger then I and I donated my white stem cells on Feb 2nd 2016.
    Everything went well while I was hooked up to the blood machine for 6 hours and it only pinched a little.
    The bone marrow Registry paid for my hotel room, two dinners, and the days I missed at work. They are Awesome.
    I also signed up for the research and going back to be hooked up to the blood machine for 2 1/2 hours.
    I can’t wait to hear that she will be well.
    I hope to meet her someday.
    Sincerely Carol A. Miller

  26. salwa ali says:

    What a heart warmng story! God bless you Zac and all those who went before you and all of us standing in line behind you, waiting for our turn to bat. I have been on the registry for 4 years now, and am always looking out for the ‘call’ to help someone.

  27. Katie says:

    I went to a blood drive. Was unable to donate due to a genetic condition of a narrow aorta in my heart. Did find out through that experience ten yrs. ago that I could be placed on the bone marrow donation though. And it could maybe be a viable donation option. I jumped at the chance and tell any friends to please join the list. You just never know when you can help another. God Bless his g/f and family!

  28. Carol says:

    I joined BE THE MATCH when a woman at our church needed a marrow donation. She did get a transplant, but unfortunately did not survive–she got a secondary infection from a common mold and her system was too weak to fight it. This was about 27 years ago. since then I have had at least three calls through the years, as I was a potential match. I did not make it past the 2nd round of testing for one and the other two I was never called back so I do not know who the patients were that needed the match except that one was a child. I was so sad I could not BE THE MATCH. I am still on the list and hope I can donate before I am “too old”.

  29. Annette says:

    Congratulations to Zac for being the Hero to a person in need. May The Good Lord wrap his healing arms on the recipient. I have been on the Registry since the 80s and have been called once. I wasn’t a close enough match for the recipient, but was grateful there was a donor close enough.
    My son is 19 and has been a blood donor for a couple of years. Yesterday he got a phone call from Donor Services. The recipients wanted to thank him for saving their lives. I had never seen him so excited and proud that he saved someone’s life.

    Thank you all that are able to help save a life!

  30. Donna says:

    Zac, you’re an inspiration and I’m sure your girlfriend and family are very proud of you! I have been on the bone marrow registry for 24 years, but unfortunately, never got a call to help anyone. And after next June, I’ll age out.
    That’s OK though. It has been an honor to be on the registry.

  31. bob says:

    Zac, I am a father of a child that had a Bone Marrow Transplant when he was five years old. My son Robert had Philadelphia Positive ALL Leukemia and only had a 20% chance of living. He had no chance of living without a Transplant. When we found out that his three sisters were not a match we cried as a family. We then waited and prayed for weeks to find a donor. We knew the moment our doctor walked in our room that we had found a match.Our Doctor was glowing with a smile that gave it away before she told us. We again cried that day that our prayers were answered. No one in the United states matched our son, But a gentlemen in Germany was a perfect match and donated his marrow to save my son Robert’s life. That was July 18th, 2007, and he is loving life and our donor kept our family complete. Our donor does not have money, nor do we. My son, and our family and our donor’s dream is someday to get him and his family to the USA and meet him in person to Thank him for saving our son’s life. My other dream is that I get the call as a match to save someone’s life. God Bless you Zac and all the donors that have saved lives. Thank you from a family that will never forget what it is like to be blessed by a donor.

  32. Carin Wantland says:

    Way to go Zac. How blessed that family is to have you there to donate. I can’t even imagine how great it must feel to help save a life. I pray my day will come to help someone in need as well. God bless you.

  33. Larry says:

    I was on facebook earlier and saw a video about how a doctor aborted a baby. They pulled them out limb by limb and crushes the skull. Left me totally disgusted at how cruel some people can be. Then I read about Zac and how he would go and do anything he can to save a life he doesn’t even know. Makes me feel better. I like a lot of you got the call that I was a possible match but wasn’t the best match. Still waiting and hoping for another call.

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