It was an exciting and emotional day in Virginia Cancer Specialists’ Stem Cell Department. Long-time patient Tony R. paid the office a visit and brought with him a very special guest, Kevin M. After undergoing a two year waiting period, and communicating via text, email, and Skype, Tony and his bone marrow donor were finally being united in person. Tony took the time to include VCS in his special moment and to share some of the “behind the scenes” details that went in to making the emotional meeting a reality.

The journey began when Tony was shockingly diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), a precursor to leukemia, which causes damage to the blood-forming cells in bone marrow and leads to low blood counts. After being diagnosed by VCS physician Dr. Robert Reid, Tony was given a bone marrow transplant through the VCS Fairfax Stem Cell Transplant Program in Fairfax, VA. The process was, of course, life-changing for Tony who was only in his twenties and had just embarked on starting a family with his wife. But what about the person who donated the bone marrow enabling Tony to receive the transplant?

Tony’s donor is from overseas. Therefore, there is a required two-year waiting period before they could communicate directly. After that period, they began to communicate regularly. Naturally, plans for an in-person meeting began to take shape. Tony’s direct thoughts were, “I wanted to be able to thank him in person for such a charitable act that saved the life of a complete stranger. If he was willing to meet, there really was no question in my mind that we would one day meet.”

After some coordination, Tony’s donor arranged an international visit for a week. The meeting felt like a reunion. They hit it off and instantly felt familiar with one another. The hard part was saying good-bye. “(I)t all seemed to end very quickly, and I was truly sad to see him go,” Tony recounted.  

Tony is adamant that he will keep in touch with his donor, calling him his blood brother. He is thankful for the opportunity to meet Kevin in person. When asked what Tony has learned from this experience, he emphasized that he hopes his story will help others going through similar circumstances. “Sometimes you just need someone to tell you…that you can make it through just one more day,” he said. 

Virginia Cancer Specialists would like to thank Tony and his donor, Kevin, for taking the time to include us in their special week. It was an honor to be a part of such a wonderful moment and to witness the union of blood brothers. Pictured above, from left to right: Dr. Robert Reid, Dr. Gregory Orloff, Tony R., and Kevin M. 

The Fairfax Stem Cell Transplant program was founded in 1989 and remains one of the only FACT accredited stem cell transplant programs in the Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia area. VCS physicians, Dr. Orloff and Dr. Patel-Donnelly, who are co-directors of the program, are highly experienced in transplantation and in treating cancers and diseases of the blood. For more information on the VCS Fairfax Stem Cell Program, please call 703-208-9202, or click here.