When I was three years old, my mom was diagnosed with MS. Her disease progressed rapidly, and it took a significant toll on me at a very young age. No one knows what it is like to grow up with a sick parent unless you have lived it. It’s not easy. BUT, in no way shape or form am I complaining. I would not be the person I am today without it. When being dealt this kind of card, you can either let it break you, or you can let it inspire you to be a person that “lives to give.” Because you’re healthy. Because you’re able. Because you can.
My name is Carly, and I am soon to be 26 years young. I am here today to share an experience of mine with you. The best day of my life. A day that did not personally, physically or financially benefit me, which many people expect a “best day” to do. I was able to save a life. Now that constitutes as one heck of a best day.
Although majority of my philanthropic life was spent supporting the National MS Society, as a young adult, I knew I had to broaden my impact to other organizations. Even if a specific cause does not affect you or someone you know, it is still important and it can still use your help.
Before going away to college, I put much thought into registering to become a bone marrow donor. During my freshman year, there was a sign up booth in the student union for Be the Match – National Bone Marrow Donor Program. I knew this was my perfect opportunity, and quite honestly, very simple. They take a significant amount of personal information, but as far as physical contribution, all they do is take a few cotton swabs of the inside of your cheek to obtain a DNA sample. I never knew how easy it was to register, and now that I do, I encourage everyone to do so.
I learned that it is extremely rare to be someone’s perfect match. You may come up as someone’s “possible match,” but unless you match perfectly, you will not be called upon to go through the transplant procedure. LONG STORY SHORT: after four years of waiting, during my senior year of college, I got a call. I was a possible match for one of the patients in their system. After further testing; blood tests, physical exams, EKG’S, CT scans, etc., I was confirmed as a perfect match for this patient.
At the time, the information that I was able to receive about the patient, was that he is a 9 year old boy suffering from Acute lymphocytic leukemia, and that he is classified as an emergent pediatric patient. I got the call confirming I was a perfect match on December 24, 2012. I underwent surgery on January 9, 2013. My decision to go through with the procedure was a no-brainer. Of course I was going to take the opportunity to save someone’s life, especially a child.
My extraction took place at Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. I spent a few days there post-surgery, as I was in a significant amount of pain. (All worth it.) My most memorable moment from this entire experience took place in the recovery room, after it was all done, a group of doctors and nurses flooded my room and started clapping. They each hugged me and said “thank you for saving one of ours.”
Six months later, I received a letter from Be the Match and Dana Farber, reiterating their appreciation and letting me know that the little boy was responding well to treatment. At my 1, 2 and 3 year anniversaries, I continued to receive a letter reassuring me that the patient was doing very well. This will forever be the most cherished experience of my life, and I hope I get the opportunity to meet the recipient, and let him know that I am honored to be his “perfect match.”