Today, while on her usual visit at the hospital, my wife got a massive surprise. Jennifer Ford Aparicio (aka #JennStrong) received a letter from her donor. It came from her bone marrow transplant coordinator on three sheets of paper in 12-point type. The blanks indicate information that was literally whited out on the original documents to ensure anonymity. We do not know his name. We aren’t allowed to officially meet or exchange names for another 11 months.
This is the most poignant, amazing document I have ever seen. If you think it’s hard reading it, you should’ve seen me trying to re-type this to publish on my blog. Obviously, I might have to ask Mark Cuban or Dirk Nowitzki for a favor…
Dear Ms. “;”
Honestly, I don’t really know how to start such a letter. Maybe it is the best way to start by introducing myself as good as I can.
I’m a 21 year old man from Germany. I’ve got several sport activities which I very like. I really like soccer. I’ve played it for almost ten years in clubs. The first time I played soccer, I was a little boy and my father went with me to the football pitch. It was such an awesome feeling to play with other kids and have fun. I didn’t play very successfully, but if I’m honest, it wasn’t my intention to be the next soccer star. I just wanted to have fun. After some years and a few injuries, I decided to give up what I really love. Of course, it was a tough decision, but I had to take care of my health, so it was the only decision I could make.
I’m interested in basketball. The origin of basketball is your country! Of course as a German, I’m a huge ______ fan, so it’s no wonder, that I’m also a “fan” of the _________. Are you also interested in basketball, or are you prefer another sport activity?
Now, I’ve got a few questions which I’d like to ask you. The first and for me, most important question is:
How are you feeling?
Did you overcome blood cancer, the pain and everything else which is included by this awful disease?
How did you get to know of the diagnosis “blood cancer”?
What were your first thoughts once you got the message of leukemia?
Have you ever doubted that you’ll survive?
What did you feel, when receiving the message, that there is a donor for you?
Of course, I’ll understand if you don’t want to answer some of these questions, because maybe they’re too personal.
Probably it is time to explain to you, why I did donate stem cells.
A couple of friends asked me “why do you donate for a person you don’t even know?”
The answer actually isn’t as easy as it looks like. Once I was in the hotel, previous and after this donation, I often asked myself the question. But if I’m honest, it’s complicated to describe. Sometimes it’s hard to explain with the words I know. Maybe it’s best to tell you how I anyway get into position to donate for somebody.
About two years ago, when I was in vocational school, there was a charity event organized by ____. I was asked if I wanted to sign up or registrate to the database of ______. I didn’t really think about what I was doing and potential consequences for me or other people so after a few minutes I was a potential donor.
My first thought was “Oh, you won’t get the chance to donate” but this thought should become a huge fallacy.
One Year after my registration, it was a Saturday, I came home from work and while I was having breakfast, the doorbell rang. I thought it could be the mailman, because it was the typical time in Germany for post. He gave me the usual catalogues of advertisement and one huge envelope. I was quiet fascinating and didn’t expect that this letter was for me. My mind noticed very quickly “Oh, it’s for you!” I saw the logo of _____ and something in my mind told me, that this letter could change a few things immediately.
While I was reading the first lines, I was shocked in a “special” way. Obviously, at this moment I realized that my name and information about me were remaining in the database of the ____. I really had to sit down for some minutes in my room and had to think about what just happened.
It was unreal to read that I could make a contribution to rescue the life of somebody!
The next weeks were quite a journey for me: I had to fill in a lot of papers about health issues, went to doctors, had a couple of calls from employees of the ____ and got also several letters.
One day I had to go to my family doctor, because I had to give a blood sample. This blood was sent to a scientific institute to check if I’m the right donor for you! My responsible official had already told, that could take a few weeks until I’ll get an answer.
Weeks passed, but at the end of May, I finally got a positive answer. I was snoozing until I looked up on my mobile phone and saw an incoming call. I’ve already recognized the number, because I got several calls from this number in the last weeks. It was the _____! Immediately, I was wide awake and listened carefully the woman on the phone. As she had asked me, if I would like to donate, I did not hesitate for a second. I’ll do it!
So a couple of days later I had to go to ______, because of pre-examinations to check if I’m completely healthy. The donation should start a few days after the check-up, but one day in the evening I got a call from the clinic where the donation should take place. She said the target date had to be postponed.
This was a strange feeling, because I worried a lot and asked myself what could be the reason for this delay. But after some calls on the other day, the worries didn’t exist anymore.
On the 24th of June I went to ____ again, but this time I stayed there two nights in an incredible hotel.
Next day was donation day! The breakfast in the hotel was impressive, but honestly I couldn’t eat as much as I’d like to, because I was too excited about the things which should come later that day.
At eight O’clock, it all began. Of course, I speculated a lot about how this day will look like and I also had a few doubts if I’ll get any pain or side-effects. But was so relaxed, I couldn’t believe it myself.
I lay there about three and a half hours. It sounds like nothing than boredom, however it wasn’t. I listened to music a lot and talked to one of the nurses for some time.
The feeling after donation was unbelievable! I couldn’t realize that I possibly saved a life. I had to wait about half an hour, because the doctors wanted to know if I felt good after this process. I didn’t expect that I’ll feel so good if I’m honest because when I was at the check-up they told me, you will feel like you ran a marathon. But everything was good.
In the evening I finally realized what I had done. If everything went well, I would save a life! A life of a human! The thoughts and the feelings which I have while thinking about it, are so unbelievable! After the donation, friends texted me “we are so proud of you – you’re a hero!” Of course, the support of my friends was amazing and just in the moments as I had worries about the things that will come. I felt a lot more secure.
But am I really a hero?
In my opinion I’m not a hero! Actually, I did something very special and maybe uncommon. Of course, everybody has his own definition of becoming a hero. For me a hero is a person who risks his own life to save a life of somebody whom he or she actually doesn’t even know. A soldier in Afghanistan is a hero! He or she puts his/her life on the line, just to create a little bit of freedom in a country where freedom never could exist. A fireman risks his own life to save a life or even more from people he actually doesn’t know everyday. But why do they do something like that? In my mind, those people do this out of deepest conviction. They don’t do it because they have to. No, they do it because they believe it is right to do it!
What does it mean to my situation?
I did this donation also out of deepest conviction. I didn’t do it because it’s highly regarded in society. No, I did this for you because I believe it is our assignment to help people when they need help the most.
But there is another reason why I did such a thing.
I told you previously, that I was admitted into the database of the ___ because there was an initiative at my vocational school. There was a guy of the same age and his little brother suffered leukemia, so he was looking for a donor for his young brother.
While I was listening to the story of his young brother, I asked myself what I would do for my little brother if I was in his position. I don’t know if you have children or if you are even married, but the thought that you may lose things which you truly love was beyond all bearing. By knowing that I could make at least one person much more happier pushed me a lot. A lot of people want to have so much money that they don’t know even what to do with it, they want to have a fast car, a huge mansion or even a yacht. But what you only wish is, that you can see your kids, play with them in the garden, see them growing up, just do what you want to do and not spending every second thinking about your disease. You just want to live your life! Happiness is one of the things you can’t buy!
I’d like to come to the end of this letter. I actually don’t know how to end such a letter, like I previously didn’t know how to start. But what I’d like to say: I also have to thank you! It may sound strange but I’m deeply grateful that I had such a chance to do something like that. Every time I’m upset, I think back on what I did and that you could be the happiest person on earth. And so I become very happy too. I wish you, your family and your friends all the best and that you will become the person you were before the disease, that you can do whatever you like to do, that your dreams and wishes you have become reality at some point.
Someday, I hope that I’ll get the redeeming message from you: “I’m fine!”
Your genetical twin!