Dale’s Letter to His Daughter’s Marrow Match

Posted September 20th, 2016 by Be The Match and filed in Donor Stories
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Dale's daughter, Eva, in the hospital two weeks after she was diagnosed with Leukemia.

Dale’s daughter, Eva, in the hospital two weeks after she was diagnosed with Leukemia.

August 26, 2014 is a day that will forever be branded in our minds. That’s the day our doctor told us “Your daughter, Eva, has leukemia”.  When you hear the word “leukemia” and you aren’t prepared, the word scares the hell out of you. You’ve heard it before but really what is leukemia?

 We were terrified. Genetic testing showed that Eva had a high-risk form of leukemia with a higher chance of the disease coming back after treatment and lowered chance of long term survival.

We began hearing new words like “bone marrow transplant” and “donor” and found out that Eva’s life would be in the hands of a complete stranger.

Chemo could kill the cancer and doctors could give our daughter a fighting chance, but without a bone marrow transplant, there was no chance for long-term survival. We immediately began the search for an unrelated donor on the Be The Match Registry®. Doctors said it could be months before a match might be found, and that there was a chance we’d never find one.

Soon we hit 90 days since Eva’s diagnosis, 80 days in the hospital in isolation, and two rounds of intense chemo and recovery.

Then the most wonderful thing happened. Our nurse gave us the news that Eva had a match. Someone was willing to give Eva a second chance at life. It was an amazing feeling to think that in all of the world someone had said, “I don’t know you, but I am willing to give to you what I have.”

Our hematology/oncology and bone marrow transplant teams worked together set a transplant date, and confirmed with “our donor” that the date worked with them and they were ready to move forward.

Leukemia can be a rollercoaster ride. Plans can change quickly. Eva developed an infection following chemo. We received heartbreaking news that Eva was not healthy enough for her transplant. She would need another round of chemo.

As scary as this was, we wondered about the donor. Would they want to continue with us after this change in plans? We were happy to learn that our donor was flexible with Eva’s needs and a new transplant date was set.

Eva contracted another infection following the next round of chemo and needed surgery. This pushed out the transplant date…again. We were worried. Our donor had to be struggling and anxious with all of these changes. We couldn’t imagine what they were experiencing. They didn’t know Eva or our family. We were strangers.

A new transplant date was set yet again. We were all looking forward to it. It became a day of hope.

After the last round of chemo, we checked into the Ronald McDonald House so we could be close to the clinic for more tests. Everything seemed to be going well until Eva suddenly developed a fever. Such a simple word can carry so much fear when battling leukemia. A fever literally scares you to death because her immune system wasn’t strong enough to fight off infections.

Then we got the news we never wanted to hear. After many tests, our team called me and my wife into a small room. They said, “We have done all we can for your daughter. It’s time to take her home and spend her final days with family”.

I cried during the drive home, but somewhere along the way I had a thought that cut me to the core: What and how would they tell “our donor”?  This is someone who said, “I will do what I can to help.” After all the tests and the many date changes, it’s now all over. This person doesn’t know us and as far as they knew, they were going to help save a life. How would they tell this person and how would they take the news? My heart went out to our donor.

We said good bye to our baby three days after her 17th birthday. To say it was hard to get back to what was now our life does not come close to describing it.

It wasn’t long after we started thinking about “our donor” again. This person had been so much a part of our lives for months and even today holds a special place in our hearts.

We want to take this time to thank all of the special people out there who come forward and offer to give life to others. Many complete the process and are able to enjoy contact with the patient and their families. Others are never matched. Others, like our donor, are selected and for some reason the process stops before the transplant.

You are all heroes in our heart and the hearts of other families. I hope this note is read by “our donor” and they know how much you mean to us. Thank you for saying yes over and over again. You will always be in our hearts, minds and prayers.

Thank you cannot express our deep appreciation but what more can we say, thank you.

25 Responses to “Dale’s Letter to His Daughter’s Marrow Match”

  1. Lauren says:

    Dear Dale,

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful daughter’s story. I am so sorry for your loss.

    I am a registered potential donor. When I signed up to be on the register, I fully understood that I might one day get the call that I was a match and that the time might not be convenient for me. But there is nothing I wouldn’t rearrange to potentially help save someone’s life.

    If I am ever called, I will be thinking of you and your daughter as I donate. I wish so very much things had turned out differently for you. Today I will share this story on social media and try to encourage someone else to sign up.

    With much love,

    Lauren

    • Gina says:

      I joined the registry way back in 1987. I was called 4 times back in those early days. There weren’t as many of us donors to pick from. All 4 times, I was told I wasn’t needed and I only hoped a better match than me was found. I think about those 4 people and pray for them and their families all the time. I consider them family now even though I will never meet them here. I will always remember you too as I think of your story. I am so, so sorry for your loss and I will stay on the registry until they say I’m too old! When I tell potential registry members about it, I tell them that I’m trying to “hire my replacement,” as I’m nearing the age limit these days. God be with you always. Thank you for telling your story.

  2. Lisa Gertz says:

    Thank you for sharing your deeply moving story. I have a 16 year old daughter named Eva…I have been registered as a donor since she was a little girl. You have my love and prayers and gratitude for your incredible strength. Sharing your story will save many lives I’m sure.

  3. Tracey says:

    Dear Dale,

    I lost my brother to cancer. He was weak and sick and a donor was never matched. My brother and your daughter are the reasons I joined the registry. If I can spare one family the grief and offer hope and/or a cure that is what I will do. Trust me schedule changes will not curtail my resolve to help. It would be my honor to help. I share the stories on social media to remind and encourage others to joy Be The Match. Thank for sharing your story. I wish your family peace. Love Tracey

  4. Ann says:

    Thank you Dale for sharing your families story. My heart goes out to you for the loss of your precious daughter. I thank you for caring for your donor in such a loving, wonderful way. Even though the transplant didn’t happen, you will all always be connected. Blessings to you all.

  5. Karen says:

    Dear Dale,
    I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m a donor as well as two of my daughters. We became donors because it’s hard to find a match for Africian-Americans. I’ll be keeping your family in my prayers. Blessings and thoughts. Karen

  6. Dariana says:

    Dear Dale,

    I’m so deeply sorry for your loss, my condenlences goes out to you and your family. Also, thank you so much for sharing your story to us I hope this will bring more awareness and for more people to join and register to become a donor. Please be strong and I will keep you and your family in my prayers.

  7. Kim Berrier says:

    Dear Dale,

    I’m sorry about the loss of your daughter. I am a donor and was on the registry for 12 years to the day when I got the call to say I was a potential match for a gentleman. I was willing to help but he also never made it to be transfused. I often think of his family.

    I joined because my brother-in-law had leukemia and was never able to get a match. I look at it this way – what if it was my family member that needed it I would want the donor to be there to help so I want to be there to help their family as well.

    Thank you for your letter to your donor. You are in my prayers.

  8. Maria says:

    Dear Dale and Family,
    I’m so sorry for the loss of your daughter. May the Lord give you strength for your journey. Eva’s story will inspire and motivate many to join the registry and save lives. Although, I lost my husband-age 44 to cancer, I can’t begin to even imagine what it is like to lose your child. I became a donor 14 years ago when Justin, a 21 year old was also diagnosed with leukemia.
    Dale, you and I and so many who have lost loved ones to cancer are a special family, cancer can’t take that away.
    I read Eva’s story through tears, but I’m so very glad I did.
    You and your family are in my prayers.

  9. Tina Thompson says:

    Dale & Family,
    You must have a heart of gold to be thinking about how Eva’s potential donor felt, even through your pain of losing such a beautiful daughter. My prayers are with you and your family.

    I signed up for the registry many years ago and was identified as a match. I kept waiting for the phone call to schedule the donation and it never came. I was heart broken for the family that I never knew. Your letter means a lot to me because I was very disappointed that I was unable to help!

    Some day, if I get that call that I am a match, I will do everything in my power to donate, because there would be nothing better in life than to be able to help save another life! God Bless You!

  10. Kat Welsh says:

    Dear Dale,

    I’m so sorry to hear about your tragic loss. I have never been a match for anyone yet, but I hope that one day I can help a family like yours. Best wishes and prayers.

  11. Fred Fateh says:

    Dear Dale,
    Thank you for sharing your story with us. I just want to say that there would be no bigger gift for me than one day getting the call that I am a match. I have moved so many times, but every time I made sure my information is up to date. Currently, I live oversees, but would not hesitate for a moment to go anywhere, if my name is called.

    Thank you.

  12. Joanne says:

    Dear Dale,
    My sincere condolences to you and your family in the loss of your beautiful daughter. I am a donor and received a call a few years ago about a match. The process began with many questions about my health, etc. I spoke with representatives on several occasions over the course of a few weeks. I then received a call that it would be postponed and I’d receive a call if I was still needed. I asked what had happened and was told they could not share that due to HIPAA. I certainly understood that. I was well aware of why my donation may have been cancelled. It broke my heart and made me more dedicated to this cause. Your letter serves as a catalyst to encouraging more people to participate. May you know peace and have comfort in knowing your daughters passing has touched others to spread the word about this worthy cause.

  13. deb Poki says:

    I am so sorry for the loss of your daughter. Having 3 children I couldn’t even imagine the pain and desperation as a parent to cure what hurts. I have waited 40yrs to match someone in need, and will continue. Our prayers and thoughts go out to your family

  14. Diane says:

    Dear Dale,
    As all of the other posts have said, I am so sorry for your loss. I have been on the registry for 20 years. I have 3 grown children and grandchildren. This is something I do for them. I would hope that if one of my family members would need transplant there would be someone that would be there for them.
    I myself did get a call last fall, finally, for a 4 year old girl. However it never came to fruition. I never found out the details but I would have dropped everything to be there for her. I often think of her and her family and hope things worked out for them. I also work in cancer research and see the devastation and miracles that transpire daily. We are making strides but we have a long way to go. I hope that everyone that is able would be registered as a donor. What an honor it is to be able to help a stranger. My prayers and thoughts are with you.

    • Dale Munk says:

      Diane, our motivation for contacting Be the Match was for the reason you mentioned. We actually wanted to get a note to our donor but as we expected the privacy policy prevented us for doing so. Thank you for responding but also for be a donor.

  15. BOB MCNALLY says:

    Dear Dale,
    So sorry to hear of your daughters passing. I joined the registry after my 5 year old nephew died from leukemia after his bone marrow transplant, he caught pneumonia post transplant. He would have been 19 this past September and my sister always sends an e/mail out to us on his birthday so it is something that is forever with you. I just turned 60 and am now not eligible but as I think now, maybe I should consider a gift each September as a tribute. Blessings to your family and all others touched by this disease.

  16. Donna Bowen says:

    The hair on my arms stood up as I read your letter. This very scenario happened with me as a donor several years ago not once but twice. If your donor was like me you can bet your donor was as vested as I was. For the first person I matched, when I got the call from Heart of America for the third time canceling the transplant the day before I was to fly out they asked me if I was siting down. The patient had to be pulled out of his conditioning and it didn’t look good. I was completely devastated, I broke down that day and had to leave work. I was told few days later the patient died and that my walk in life with him was over. then only a few months later I got a all from Heart of America again saying I matched yet another patient needing a transplant. I thought at first it was a mistake. Long story short we went through ALL of the testing and I was told I was the best match for the patient however they were not ready for the transplant. this too has been several years ago and that was the last I heard. Not sure if this person beat the cancer or has since died. I am still on the registry but fell certain my chances of matching third person would be slim to none but here I will wait, just in case. My prayers are with you as you continue to morn loss of your beautiful Eva. May God bless you and yours.

  17. Maria Kouvaras Bouzalakos says:

    Dear Dale and family,
    I am very sorry for your loss of your beautiful daughter Eva. I am a registered donor and hope one day to be called to save a life especially for our youth who are afflicted with harsh diseases. My hope is that you continue to transform your life by honoring beautiful Eva’s life and sharing her story.May you be strengthened in hope,perseverance and love.
    All my love Maria

  18. Dave Goss says:

    Dear Dale,

    I am so sorry for the loss of your daughter. I was a matched donor in the late 90’s, drove to Philadelphia a few times for testing and was ready to go. On my last trip for my final test, I was told that they tried to contact me before I left home, as the recipient had relapsed. As sad as I was, it could not have matched the sadness of the recipient’s family and friends. For awhile, I felt guilty, perhaps I didn’t respond quickly enough, or scheduled my tests sooner. In any event, your story and those of others in this program encourage me to always be ready for the next potential person in need.
    May God grant you some peace in your time of great loss.

  19. Evie Pearlman says:

    My heart goes out to you and your wife. I’m so sorry to hear about your unimaginable loss. People like you and Eva and your wife are why I registered to be a donor. Thank you for reaching out to donors, even during a time of tremendous loss and sorry. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your wife.

  20. Dale Munk says:

    Everyone who has left comments you have touched our hearts. It amazes us how many people have been in the same situation as our donor, willing to do whatever and even having a dates set only to find out that something has changed and the transplant will not go forward. You were the motivation for contacting Be the Match and sharing our story. We understand that you all deserve privacy and we respect our donor for that, we also hope by some small chance our donor will read Eva’s story and know how much we love them. All of you who have registered are the salt of the earth and I speak for all recipients and their family when I say thank you from the bottom of our heart.

  21. Marsha says:

    Thank you for this story and the courage it took to share it. I never heard from my recipient. I often wonder how they are? Whether they made it. Are they ok. This story has filled that void some how. Thank you. I am sorry for your loss. I pray Gods continued strength for you and your family.

  22. Mary Hustwick says:

    Dear Dale,
    I am so sorry for your loss. God bless you and your family. I am on the
    list but heard that if you are over 50, you can’t be a match. I hope that is
    not true. I have a rare blood type A- too. I would love to help someone like your daughter. Thanks for your continued help with the Be the Match registry.

    • BOB MCNALLY says:

      Mary Hustwick, I googled Be The Match website and once you are on the registry you are able to donate up to age 61, after that you are removed from the active donor list, so I have 59 days left–I hope this helps!

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