Patty Morash,28, learned her bone marrow matched a woman’s in California just days before her mom died from colon cancer. Originally a preliminary match for a baby in her home state of New Hampshire, Patty realizes that genetics — and destiny — intervened.
About 3,000 miles away in a Los Angeles suburb, Cindy Ladin, 34, had been diagnosed with leukemia. With husband Hal and daughters Stephanie, 6, and Jerica, 2, Cindy waited for a life-saving phone call … again. One suitable donor devastatingly withdrew after months of indecision, a reason why donors are kept confidential for a year.
Though human tissue types are inherited, 70 percent of patients like Cindy don’t have familial donors, so Be The Match Registry is searched for unrelated close matches. Cindy recalls the night she found out about another donor. “I got home late and my mom, Hal and the babysitter were waiting. I thought something was wrong, but the doctor wanted me in the hospital that night!”
Prepped for surgery on October 14, 1992, Cindy received a note: “I know this marrow will help you. An angel will be watching over you." Scratching off Wite-Out, Cindy literally uncovered her angel’s name: Patty.
No medical procedure is risk-free, but most donors resume normal activities within a week. Patty spent overnight in the hospital while Cindy remained for weeks rebuilding her immune system. Passing crucial 100-day and one-year hurdles, Cindy’s prognosis improved.Then, the Ladins received another momentous call. “It’s your sister,” Hal told Cindy. Though not Cindy’s biological sister, Patty was definitely a newfound blood relation.
Originally perfect strangers, the women connected as naturally as their stems cells,exchanging stories and planning to meet soon in Portsmouth. Eventually, Patty’s husband Mike, daughters Meghan and Nikkiand Patty, who’d postponed getting pregnant again until she’d donated, attended a party out west.Cindy’s loved ones gathered to honor an earthbound angel.“So many people wanted to thank me for something I feel anyone should do. It was overwhelming to know I’d helped someone so loved,” remembers Patty.
Since beginning their unique union, the women talk weekly. “Our bond’s like a mother and child’s — unconditional. I know Cindy’s there for me no matter what. I love her family. They truly care for mine and always make me feel loved,” says a reciprocally thankful Patty. “Cindy’s given me everything I might not have, like fancy clothes and a car for the kids, and advice … whether I want it or not,” Patty teases. “But, if she never gave me a thing, I’d still love her as much as I do.”
Following Patty’s inspirational example, Mike and Meghan became registered donors. “I tell everyone to donate,” Patty says. “I had to do this for my mother.”
Each anniversary of the transplant, Cindy calls the woman who gave her the gift of time … time to watch her daughters, now young adults, grow and thrive. "Thanks for another year!” Cindy says.
Next year, 20 since their lives intertwined, the couples will celebrate together. “I’m taking them to Disneyland, San Diego and anything else I can think of,” Cindy says.
“Don’t forget Universal Studios,” wisecracks Patty, whose admittedly “over-exuberant hugs” of gratitude occasionally knock beneficiaries over.
Cindy can live with that.
To learn more about becoming a donor, visit www.marrow.org.