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In Print: On News Stands Now


by Tumbleweed Smith

When a couple of our friends, Deidre and Gordon, got married a few years ago, I noticed a man at the wedding wearing a mask over his nose and mouth. I found out this year about that man. His name is Frank Ryan and he lives in Philadelphia. After serving 20 years as a policeman, he retired to take care of his ailing father, who was dying with prostate cancer. Just before he passed away he told Frank to get a physical. Frank said he would and after his father died, he kept his promise.

The doctor told Frank he had an advanced stage of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, an increasingly common cancer. For Frank, it was the beginning of a long and exhausting battle against the disease. He started intense chemotherapy sessions that would last for 8 years.

Fifteen hundred miles away in Dallas, Deidre's husband Stan was fighting lymphoma, the same disease Frank had. Physicians at Baylor Medical Center put Stan on the bone marrow transplant list and the search began to find a donor. Deidre took a blood test and got on the donor list. She was not a match. Finally a match for Stan was found through the national bone marrow registry, a data bank of 7 million people whose blood test indicated they might be potential donors. Just 4 days after a match was found, Stan died. Deidre mourned deeply and gave no more thought to the registry for years.

Under Fox Chase ' Temple's Bone Marrow Transplant Program, part of Philadelphia's Temple University Medical branch, doctors have performed more than 700 bone marrow transplants. In the latest technology, doctors replace not the marrow itself but the blood forming stem cells.

These are mature stem cells found in the bone marrow of adults and sometimes children, but not in newborn babies or fetuses.

Frank Ryan's medical team decided to look for a bone marrow donor for Frank. His brothers and sisters were tested. None was a match.

Deidre was. Deidre, who went on the list trying to save someone she loved, is given another chance to save a life. Doctors at Baylor drew Deidre's stem cells and a courier transported them to Fox Chase.

Deidre's stem cells were transfused into Frank through an IV. Once the donor cells assert themselves, they attack the lymphoma. Frank's disease melted away.

A year later, Frank and Deidre met for the first time. Deidre and her fianc', Gordon, went to Philadelphia and met Frank at the train station. He was waiting for her with a bouquet of red roses and a big sign bearing her name. When they saw each other, they embraced. Frank said, 'Thanks for everything.'

As they left the train station, Frank said to a crowd of people, 'This lady saved my life. Bone marrow transplant.' They became good friends and stay in touch. When Deidre and Gordon got married, Frank was an usher at their wedding.

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