“He saved me.”
Standing next to each other for a photo, with one arm each around the other’s shoulders, it’s hard to believe it’s been years since the two men had seen each other. They chatted and caught up like old friends who see each other every few years.
However, the last time they had spoken face-to-face, Dakota Hommerson was only 10 years old. As the only one in the world – at least, that he knows of – with a condition called “systemic lymphatic angiomatosis,” he was always an easy-to-spot kid.
“I’m thankful because this young man is doing very well, comparatively speaking,” said Larry Carter, who taught Dakota in fifth grade and recalled the issues he dealt with, “That means everything. You get into teaching because of a love of kids, and there are those kids who make that love deeper. I’d never had a situation where I was able to give a part of myself for someone like this guy.”
Nearly 11 years ago, Larry Carter did what he always does: donate platelets. One day, he got a call telling him someone in the area was an exact match for his platelets, and needed a lot of them. Around the same time, Dakota had been out of school for a while.
“Mr. Carter called and asked if I’d needed platelets recently. We put two and two together,” said Dakota, “Sitting in the hospital and getting so many [blood products] from other people and wondering who it came from [..] So when I found out, I was happy beyond belief. I couldn’t wait to say ‘thank you’ and hug him. I did the next time I saw him!”
The 20-year-old needed thousands of blood transfusions throughout his life, and nearly all of them came from Spectrum Health – meaning the blood products he received came directly from Michigan Blood, and donors like Larry.
Even though Dakota isn’t eligible to donate blood – he still needs blood transfusions from time to time – he said he wants to encourage people to do it.
“At least do it once,” he suggested, “If they’re scared of needles, I understand. I would offer to go with them, if I could. So many kids need it – it really helps.”
“When you have a face to it, it makes all the difference in the world,” said Larry, “But if I ever needed an incentive, Dakota is it.”