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Six months ago tomorrow, a youngish man of 34 I've never met and may never know went into a clinic. He sat down on a hospital type bed and had tubes inserted into each of his arms. Over the next several hours he allowed his blood to be removed from his body, filtered through a machine and then returned to continue its course`.

About five times over the weeks preceding this event, he had taken time out of his life to go down to the clinic, where he received injections designed to stimulate growth in his blood system. The purpose of the injections was to produce more stem cells in his blood than he could possibly need. Then he was hooked up to the machine in order to harvest these cells.

Although the risks in this process were minimal, there were risks, none the less. No one knows what the long-term effects might be because this process in relatively new. Long-term issues, if any, won't begin to reveal themselves for a few more years.

Because of this unknown, the man's family and friends might have tried to talk him out of pursuing this. I don't know. I couldn't blame them if they did. He may have had strong misgivings of his own. I'm sure I would have.

But he followed through and did what he did. And he did this with only one purpose in mind. His goal was to prolong the life of a stranger.


I don't know much more about this man. I've told you he was 34 at the time. I know he is the same bloodtype as I am. I know he was CMV negative. I know he was deemed an "acceptable" match for me (not a perfect one). I know he lives in the Central time zone.

And I know he was the only person out of 5 million potential donors in this country who was even considered an acceptable match for me. (Worldwide there were two others. One a 44 y.o. man in Germany with my bloodtype. The other was a 50 y.o. woman in France with a different bloodtype.)

Privacy law and practice prevents me from knowing any more about him -- even if he wants me to -- for one year from the time of my transplant. I don't know if he knows as much about me as I do about him.

In six more months, I hope he chooses to let me know who he is. I'd gladly travel anywhere in the world to at least by him dinner. I wish I could buy him a statue. But nothing I could ever do would allow me to feel as if I've shown him proper gratitude.

He may live down the street from me. We may wind up becoming close friends once I know who he is... if if ever know who he is. But I don't know if I will ever truly be able to understand what it was that motivated him to put himself at risk in order to save me.

I was allowed to write him one letter. I chose the 50th day after my transplant, when I knew I was making progress, to send that to him. So, I can't thank him today. Not personally.

This will have to do.

Thank you, my friend. Wherever you live, whatever you do, whoever you are, thank you!

I am eternally in your debt.
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When Life Gives You Lemons
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