Everyone has a dream and sometimes… you need a little help along the way to make it come true. That’s where the nationally-syndicated morning show, Kidd Kraddick in the Morning came in.
Inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr., the radio show hosts an annual contest that encourages listeners to submit their dreams in one hundred words or less. Submitted dreams range from the lighthearted (going on a Bigfoot expedition or meeting Dr. Phil), to the thoughtful (helping a listener start a charity).
Last week, Amy Smith wrote into the show to talk about her cousin Katie, a single mother of two and former patient who received a life-saving bone marrow transplant at the Sammons Cancer Center at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas. Her life was saved because of a kind act of a complete stranger—from the other side of the world.
Katie’s dream: to meet her bone marrow donor, and in March, that dream will come true.
Katie was only 28-years old when she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). Acute lymphoblastic leukemia, also called acute lymphocytic leukemia or acute lymphoid leukemia, is a fast-growing cancer of white blood cells. Normally, white blood cells help your body fight infections.
However, with ALL, the white blood cells are cancerous and don’t fight infections very well. These cancerous cells grow quickly and crowd out the healthy bone marrow, keeping it from making the normal red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
Each year, about 6,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALL. Though it is the most common type of leukemia in children under age 15, it can affect people of any age.
“I told them it was a mistake. ‘I feel fine.’ I felt pretty normal. I was a healthy person you know?”
One Saturday, Katie was at a local theme park with her two children and the next day woke up to some random bruises. So she went to the doctor, and they did a simple blood test. They called her the very next day and asked that she get to the nearest hospital within the hour.
“We did, my mom drove me to the hospital because I didn’t feel like I could drive being nervous about what they were going to tell me. A man in a suit walked in—and his badge said Texas Oncology.”
At that point, she knew something was really wrong. They said she had about four days left to live.
The leukemia had spread so fast that Katie felt that she only had about two to three weeks left. “We looked at your blood and we are sure that you have leukemia.”
It didn’t register at first. Whenever she thought about leukemia, she thought about her children.
“I had dropped my son off at Kindergarten that morning and my daughter at pre-kindergarten—I picked up my purse and said, ‘I don’t have time for this. You don’t understand.’ They responded, ‘No, you don’t understand.'”
A lot can go through your mind in that short time. Katie wasn’t able to see her children for 30 days, despite not having ever been away from them for one day of their life. She had to be quarantined on the transplant floor, and her children weren’t allowed to visit. It was very difficult.
Because Katie only had four days to live, that meant that any possible donor match had to already be in the registry. Katie’s “match” came up immediately.
“I remember the day that the whole team came into my room and said ‘Not only did we find a donor, but he is able and willing’.”
Often, confidentiality policies prevent patients and donors from meeting. According to policies from the bone marrow registry, Be the Match, it’s required by the U.S. Law and Federal Contract that patients and donors may have anonymous contact during the first year after transplant.
Anonymous contact means they can send cards and letters, but not connect otherwise. It took two years for Katie and her donor to be able to write their first letters to each other.
“It was first like ‘Dear Donor, From Recipient.’ I mean what do you say? I only knew he was 23-years old and from Germany.”
The name of Katie’s match is Thomas and, until Friday, January 17, Katie had never been able to talk to him on the phone.
That is, until Katie’s cousin, Amy, submitted Katie’s story to the Kidd Kraddick in the Morning radio show for the “I Have a Dream” contest.
The radio show linked Katie and Thomas, a paramedic, across the Atlantic Ocean. through tears and excited laughs, both finally were able to ‘meet’ each other.
“I’m speechless, you saved two kids from losing their mom.”
Of course, speaking over the phone isn’t necessarily speaking in person. That’s where the I Have a Dream wish came in—Amy’s wish for her cousin to meet the stranger that made such a sacrifice.
Now, Thomas will travel from Hamburg, Germany to meet for the first time in person in the United States.
Listen to the incredible audio from Katie’s appearance on The Kidd Kraddick in the Morning Show.
Also, consider becoming a donor like Thomas and register at Be The Match today.
About the author
Megan Reynolds, MS, is the Clinical Research Coordinator for the Level I Trauma Center at Baylor’s flagship hospital in Dallas, Baylor University Medical Center. She is a native Texan and proud UNT Mean Green alum.