He’s not just anyone

November 7th, 2014

A bone marrow donor who thinks “anyone would do that”

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Thorsten isn’t comfortable with me writing this. In fact, I’m not even sure if I’m allowed to tell you about him at all. But I’ll risk it. You see, he’s a hero of mine.

I met Thorsten last month. He’s a young German student getting his second degree. His first career path — being a corporate lawyer in Stuttgart — didn’t really gel with his ideologies. Making money for corporations and helping them retain it didn’t seem to sit well with him.

He’s back in school now, studying at Trinity College in Ireland, rooming with my daughter and a few other intelligent, fun, incredible leaders of the future. He knows more about America and our politics than most of us do. But as I found out, he knows more about Australian politics and Finnish politics than most Aussies and Finns do too. I’m going to call him brilliant and hope that it somehow gets lost in translation for him.

(It probably won’t. The guy’s English is flawless. Even the word “onamonapia” makes him hahaha, teehee, chortle or snort).

A few years back, someone phoned Thorsten saying his bone marrow type matched a cancer patient’s. That patient needed a transplant. Let me pause here. Before finding out that somebody matched him, he had to become registered.

“It was just a simple cotton swab of my mouth,” he explained. “Anyone would do that.”

Well, not “anyone” Thorsten. Even taking that first step is a significant, altruistic move.

When he heard somebody needed his stem cells to help them regrow their own bone marrow,  his only question was, “how soon can we do this?”

He didn’t know the person in need and that didn’t matter.

So they checked Thorsten into the hospital and gave him drugs to greatly multiply his own marrow. He spent a few days as a patient before they drew his blood and the excess stem cells out of him. A few hours later, the primordial concoction of Thorsten’s stem cells and blood were being flown across town, across the country or across the world to a patient in desperate need.

“It was a pretty easy procedure. All I really had to do was lie in bed,” he said. And then he said again, “Anyone would do that.”

I’m glad he thinks that way, “anyone would do that.” My brother, the firefighter who gave me HIS stem cells, said the same thing. I politely dispute Thorsten and my brother. There are many, many people who wouldn’t dream of doing that. There are entire religions who believe giving or receiving blood goes against biblical doctrine (I’m looking at you, Jehovah’s Witnesses).

So no, not “anyone” would do what you did.

Thorsten’s blood saved the life of a patient somewhere in the world. Interestingly, he doesn’t really care if he meets that person.

“They would probably make a big deal about it,” he said. “I’m no hero.” And again he reiterated, “anyone would do that.”

Sorry Thorsten. You are a hero, like it or not. Not only are you my hero, you’re also the hero to that anonymous patient, his family, friends and the one million others who have successfully received a bone marrow or stem cell transplant.

I’m not saying you should run right out and greet your new blood brother, but I’ve spoken to enough transplant patients who personally would love to thank their donor. They feel your life-giving cells flowing through themselves every darn minute of every darn day and they are honored to continue on with your legacy of courage and selflessness. Heck, Thorsten, let ‘em buy you dinner or at least a beer. I can guarantee they’d love to say thanks in person.

Anyone would do that.

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