Stem cells of an unknown long distant donor saved the life of Bob Winkelmann, a 67 years old retired businessman suffering from acute myeloid leukemia for years.
In 2006 Bob learned that he will need the stem cells of a healthy individual to survive. He tried his own stem cells, tried his family, relatives, children, brother, but nobodies tissue type matched.
Finally he was lucky enough to found a match, it works and his life was saved.
Kerry Lutz, then a 26-year-old student at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, had signed up on a whim to become a bone marrow donor during a campus blood drive. She didn’t hesitate when she got the call from the National Marrow Donor Program telling her she had the chance to save a life.
How they identified each other ?
Bob was determined to find out his life saver, he was not allowed to try to contact Lutz for at least a year after receiving her stem cells but said finding her was always in the back of his mind.
Lutz was also wondering who the patient was, where he lived, if he had a family, if he had a real chance of survival. Would ever there will be a chance to talk with him?
As soon as a year had past, both Lutz and Winkelmann worked with the marrow registry to try to find out one another. They still have to wait for another year.
Lutz could not help herself but started crying after receiving the first e-mail of Bob Winkelmann. She called him immediately and talked for hours, they communicating three to four times a week for hours.
Bob now “stem uncle” of Lutz planned to flying her to Chicago in July, so he can shake her hand at last.
You can be a donor too and save the life of others
As described by Dr. Martin Tallman, Winkelmann’s doctor and professor of Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine :
The process of donating stem cells involves “no pain at all,”
Unlike donating bone marrow, the donation of peripheral blood stem cells is a non-surgical procedure done in an out-patient clinic.
The process, which feels something like giving blood, takes a few hours on one or two days.
“Patients really have very few side effects,” .
Last weekend Winkelmann carried a poster of Lutz to honor her in the 16th annual Cancer Survivors’ Celebration & Walk.