I remember the day my big brother, Akiim, was diagnosed with Leukemia. It was a Tuesday afternoon, and he had been in the hospital since Saturday because he wasn’t feeling well. The doctors admitted him because they wanted to run some tests. I had just come to the hospital to visit him after leaving class, and found out he had a form of acute leukemia. I couldn’t believe it. He was 32 years old. As far as I knew, no one in our family had ever had cancer, and I had only known one other person my entire life that had had leukemia.
My brother went through several rounds of chemo, and then the doctors decided he would need a bone marrow transplant. They said a sibling had the best chance of being a match, and since it was just the two of us, I was the only one in the family who would be tested. The doctor said there was only a 1 in 4 chance that I would be a match. If I had not been a match, my brother would have had to depend on the national registry. This meant there would have only been about a 60% chance he would have found a match.
I remember the day I found out I was a match. I had just gotten out of class, and was headed to my car when the doctor’s office called. They told me I was a match, and wanted to be sure I was willing to be the donor before they told my brother and sister-in-law. Of course I would be a donor! It’s not like it’s something I had to think about. I was a match! That’s all I needed to know. I was so excited! As soon as I hung up with the doctor’s office, I called my sister-in-law to give her the good news. From that point on, tests were done and the preparations were made for the actual transplant.
The transplant was done through the Peripheral Blood Stem Cell process, which meant I was hooked up to a big machine. The machine removed my blood through a tube, took out the cells my brother needed, and gave me back the rest. For my part, the process took a little less than 2 days. Being a donor wasn’t anything that required a hospital stay, and it wasn’t scary at all. People kept telling me how I was doing such a great thing for my brother, but as far as I’m concerned Akiim is the true hero. He went through something I will never fully understand, and after all of that he’s still my loving and protective big brother, as well as a great husband, father, and son. I am extremely grateful that God blessed me with an opportunity to be a blessing to my big brother, because without Him none of this would have been possible.
I think my perspective is interesting because I am both a family member of a donor recipient and a donor. As a family member, it is hard to know that someone you love is going through the pain and discomfort of chemotherapy, and all of the side effects associated with it. As a donor, it’s a blessing to know that you may be able to do something to help alleviate that pain and discomfort. I encourage everyone that is able to do so to register with the National Marrow Donor Program, and to donate when called.