Last year, Grace Brown, a CT technologist from Florida, and Darin Eisenhut, a photographer and graphic designer from California, met for the first time.
The meeting was special—the year before, in 2016, Grace had donated bone marrow that helped save Darin’s life.
“It was worth getting cancer to get that hug.”
“There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when Darin and Grace hugged,” says Patricia Van Strien, clinical program coordinator of the Blood and Marrow Transplant Program. “We don’t always get to see things come full circle.”
In late 2015, Darin had been feeling run down for several weeks and thought he had a persistent flu.
“To get up and walk 50 feet to the bathroom would wear me out,” says Darin. “It was terrible.”
A few weeks later, he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, a type of blood cancer.
After undergoing several rounds of chemotherapy, Darin was told his best chance for long-term survival was to receive a bone marrow transplant.
In 2008, Grace had registered for Be The Match, part of the National Donor Program, a nonprofit organization that connects patients with donors, educates healthcare professionals, and conducts research. Eight years later, Grace received the call that she was a match for a patient who needed her bone marrow.
“My dad is a firefighter. I’m in the medical field,” Grace says. “It’s just what I was raised to do. If you can help people, you help people.”
In May 2016, Grace donated her bone marrow in Florida. The bone marrow cells were flown to Cedars-Sinai, where Darin and his doctors were waiting.
“It’s just what I was raised to do. If you can help people, you help people.”
Grace’s healthy cells were delivered to Darin through his bloodstream, where they began to multiply.
Five weeks later, Darin’s bone marrow function was restored.
“The transplant basically rebooted my system,” says Darin, whose leukemia is now in remission.
A happy reunion
About a year after the transplant, Darin and Grace began communicating via Facebook. A few months later, Darin got to meet his “Amazing Grace,” as he had begun calling her, in person at the Celebration of Life luncheon.
“It was worth getting cancer to get that hug,” says Darin. “It’s like I came out way ahead in that deal. I tried not to cry as much as she did because I’m the man, but that didn’t work out so well.”
“The entire experience for me was the best-case scenario”, Grace says. “He’s super cool and has a wonderful family. I feel like I have a new family member. And technically, he is a blood relative now.”
To learn more about bone marrow donation or to join the national bone marrow registry, visit Be The Match.