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Wednesday
Oct122016

Blood Buddies Forever 

Donor continues bloodline after bone marrow donation

 

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. (October 3, 2016) – Sixteen years ago, Rebecca Meeker received a phone call that would change her life forever.

“I was working on a wedding cake and then I got this phone call. I found out I was a potential match for a patient who needed a bone marrow transplant,” said Meeker of Saginaw.

Rebecca signed up to join the National Marrow Donor Program’s Be The Match Registry eight years earlier after watching a local news story about a young girl in need of a bone marrow transplant. Although she was notified months later that she was a potential match for a young patient, she was not the best match.

“I was really disappointed because I wanted to help that child,” she said. 

But the call in September 2000 would give her an opportunity to help another patient. After a series of blood testing, she was found to be the best match for a young woman in need of a bone marrow transplant. The following December, Rebecca underwent a bone marrow extraction procedure for the transplant – her life would never be the same.

“I was so happy to help and I had a quick recovery,” said Meeker.

It wouldn’t be the last time she was called on. Five months later, Rebecca was asked to donate peripheral blood stem cells for the same patient, a procedure similar to a blood donation. 

“Of course I had to help, I wasn’t going to leave her hanging. I just thought – tell me what I have do,” she said.

A year after the bone marrow donation in December 2001, Rebecca had the opportunity to talk with the patient, learn her name (Amy), and discovered they shared the same heritage. She didn’t know the phone call would be her last conversation with Amy. Amy died a month later from health complications.

“She liked music and we shared the same German/Swiss background,” Rebecca said. “She was a part of me. She was my blood buddy. I was totally devastated when I got the call from Amy’s grandmother that she passed away. She was cancer free.”

Rebecca had the honor of traveling to Missouri to attend Amy’s funeral for a final farewell and meet her family. Amy was buried wearing a ‘best friend’ necklace engraved with “Blood Buddy” on the back – a gift from Rebecca. Rebecca wears the other half as a reminder of Amy’s life and their blood connection.

The experience solidified the importance of blood donation and continues to motivate Rebecca to donate blood regularly. As a 15 gallon blood donor, she has donated every blood component with Michigan Blood.

“If I was called to go through the process again to help someone else, I would do it again,” she says. “I think of Amy often when I donate blood. After everything, I still wanted to keep up with giving blood. What is it costing me when I can help someone else? I’d hope someone would do the same for me and my family if we were in need.”

Joining Be The Match
Those between the ages of 18-44 who are interested in joining the Be The Match Registry can visit https://join.bethematch.org/MichiganBlood to join online and a swab kit will be mailed to their home. For questions about joining the registry, individuals can contact Caitlin Regan at
(616) 233-8609 or by email at cregan@miblood.org.

Donating Blood

Any healthy person 17 or older (or 16 with parental consent) who weighs at least 110 pounds may be eligible to donate, although females age 18 and under must weigh 120 pounds or more. Blood donors should bring photo ID. Walk-ins are welcome, but appointments are preferred. Donors can schedule an appointment by calling 1-866-MIBLOOD or by visiting www.miblood.org.

Michigan Blood is the sole provider of blood and blood products for more than 60 hospitals in Michigan, including Spectrum Health, Beaumont Hospitals, and Munson Healthcare. Donations given outside of Michigan Blood do not have direct local impact.