Editor’s Note: When Jude Cobler, 6, of Plano, was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia in August 2010, the diagnosis was difficult for his family to accept. It was harder still when traditional therapies failed. In October 2010, the Cobler family learned that Jude would need a bone marrow transplant.
This procedure would rid Jude of his own unhealthy blood cells and replace them with healthy blood-forming cells from a donor. But finding a donor can be difficult, because the recipient and donor’s tissue types must match. There is a 25% chance that a sibling will match.
Thankfully, this was the case for Jude. His older brother, Joshua, 12, was a match. On December 23, 2010, Joshua donated his bone marrow to Jude. Here, Joshua describes what it was like donating marrow to his little brother.
The bone marrow procedure was today. I lay in the soft hospital bed wearing a hospital gown completely relaxed. If I were not under the influence of the calming medicine, there is no way I would’ve been able to sit still. They rolled me down to the transplant room.
The actual procedure began after I was unconscious from general anesthesia. The doctor made two small incisions on the skin over the hip bone and inserted a special hollow needle/syringe into these incisions. The needle is inserted through these incisions at various angles and draw out the bone marrow. The marrow itself looks exactly the same as blood. Gauze and stretchy tape were then placed over the wound.
I felt exactly three seconds pass before a nurse woke me up in the recovery area. I was in the worst pain I’ve ever felt. (Then again, I’ve never truly been in pain before). After what felt like two minutes, but was probably much longer, she told me I met the requirements to go home. They took me upstairs by wheelchair to Jude’s room. He enthusiastically screamed my name and asked if I was all right. I limped over to the couch where I lied down and groaned. The pain was now less severe but it still hurt. (It wasn’t sore yet. It was just pure pain).
Seeing Jude again
They hooked up Jude’s central line to the bag of my marrow, his second life. I hobbled over to Jude as I told him that I loved him. He told me that he loved me. But, it meant more than that. Much more “It wasn’t just a little “I love you,” it was an “I’d do anything for you because I love you.”
I still secretly cry when I get off the phone with Jude. But, they’re no longer tears of pain and misery. They’re tears of hope. I’ve cried enough, but the tears still keep flowing out. I will never forget how much pain I went through, I will never forget how many tears I cried through these five months. I will never forget Jude’s resolution to become a “leukemia doctor” and how I promised I would become a pediatric oncologist in Jude’s honor.
But, I will never ever forget how I gave my brother a new chance at life this Christmas.
Maybe it’s strange for me to say I’m not scared at all, but I just know he’ll be all right. He has to be. But, no matter how much pain I go through, how much I hurt, how many times I cry when I’m alone, I will never forget his beautiful smile.
Editor’s Note: Two months after the procedure, here’s what Joshua had to say.
The bone marrow transplant doesn’t really cause any problems in my life. All I have to do is take iron pills every day for the next month or two.
Would I do it all over again? Of course I would. About two hours of pain for a chance to save someone’s life is worth it. So many people need bone marrow donors to make this lifesaving procedure possible.
So, I challenge you to become a donor and give someone else a chance for life. Someone out there needs you. You have the power to save a life.
How you can help
Children’s will play the role of matchmaker this Valentine’s Day, and we want you to help. On any given day, there are some 10,000 people waiting on a bone marrow transplant, including three patients at Children’s. However, 70% of patients who need a transplant don’t have a suitable donor in the family.
On Monday, Feb. 14, 2011, Children’s Medical Center hosts the Be The Match bone Marrow Donor Drive from 9 a.m.to 7 p.m. And you can join the registry for free. All it takes to get registered and potentially save a life is a cotton swab of the mouth to determine your tissue type.
The registry is open to healthy people between the ages of 18 and 60, and there is a distinct need for ethnic and racial minorities, who are under-represented on the registry. Because tissue type is inherited, patients are most likely to match someone of their same race and ethnicity, and there is a 25% chance that an immediate family member will match. Learn more at http://www.childrens.com/.