MAYWOOD, Ill. – Leukemia survivor Anna Kaiser had an emotional meeting Sunday with a bone marrow donor who saved her life.
Kaiser is in remission after undergoing a successful bone marrow transplant at Loyola University Medical Center. She received the life-saving bone marrow donation from a complete stranger, Matthew Danter of Lexington, Ky. Danter signed up to become a donor after seeing an ad on Facebook.
They met for the first time – and gave each other a big hug – during Loyola’s 26th annual Bone Marrow Transplant Celebration of Survivorship.
“I’m almost positive I would not be here today without him,” Kaiser said. “How do you thank someone for saving your life? There are no words.”
Kaiser, who lives in Mundelein, Ill., was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in January 2012. AML is a cancer that starts inside bone marrow, the soft tissue inside bones that helps form blood cells.
Kaiser was told that without a bone marrow transplant, she had only about a 10 percent chance of survival. So she transferred from another hospital to Loyola, which has done more bone marrow transplants for leukemia patients than any other center in Illinois.
To kill the cancer cells, Kaiser received high-dose chemotherapy and whole-body radiation. She then received an infusion of healthy new blood-forming stem cells from Danter’s bone marrow.
Kaiser’s Loyola physician, Dr. Patrick Stiff, said that without a bone marrow transplant, Kaiser likely had less than two months to live. But since receiving the bone marrow transplant, she has been in remission for more than two years, and is probably cured, Stiff said. Stiff is director of the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center.
Danter said he signed up to become a potential bone marrow donor after seeing a Facebook ad in 2011. He registered online and received a kit in the mail. He swabbed his cheeks and mailed back the samples. Then he almost forgot about it.
Fifteen months later, Danter was notified he was a match for a patient who needed a bone marrow transplant. Danter, who is studying for a masters’ degree in public health from the University of Kentucky, said it was an easy decision to donate.
“If my own family was affected by leukemia, I would hope that someone would do the same for me or a family member,” he said.
Danter flew to Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington D.C. to donate. While he was under anesthesia, a physician used a large needle to withdraw liquid marrow from both sides of the back of his pelvic bone.
For some donors, recovering from this procedure can be painful. But Danter experienced minimal discomfort, and spent the following day seeing the White House, Lincoln Memorial and other Washington sights.
“I had a great experience, and would do it again in a heartbeat,” he said.
Stiff said he is continually amazed that donors such as Danter “are willing to go through a potentially painful procedure to save the life of someone they have never even met.”
More than 300 patients, family members, caretakers, donors, doctors, nurses and other medical staff attended the Bone Marrow Transplant Celebration of Survivorship.
Loyola has treated more leukemia patients with stem cell transplants than any other center in Illinois, and has one of the largest unrelated donor transplant programs in the world. Loyola physicians have performed more than 2,800 stem cell transplants, including about nearly 200 umbilical cord blood transplants.
Loyola receives referrals from throughout the Midwest, including other academic medical centers in Chicago. Loyola is among the first centers to use umbilical cord donations for the treatment of certain adult cancers.
Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children’s Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola’s Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.