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Cheryl Wrigley
"You Gave Me a Chance to Save a Life"

Cheryl Wrigley was a radiology transcriptionist at Morristown Memorial Hospital in the 1970s, when she was asked to sign up as a voluntary marrow donor at a drive for a young girl with leukemia who needed to find a matching marrow donor. Cheryl, who was raising two daughters on her own, had no hesitation about joining the National Marrow Donor Program’s marrow donor registry. After all, she thought, she might be able to save a life.

Nine years after enrolling as a marrow donor, Cheryl got that fateful call. She was the one person in the world whose marrow type matched that of a young lawyer who had been diagnosed with leukemia and needed to undergo a lifesaving bone marrow transplant. Now living outside of Atlantic City, Cheryl didn’t know the young man’s name (she didn’t even know he was a man), but she immediately agreed to donate a small portion of her marrow to help save a stranger’s life.

The week of Thanksgiving 1996, Cheryl went to Hahnemann Hospital in nearby Philadelphia to have the procedure performed, and she was up and around the next day. In fact, she was treated like a guest of honor at her family’s Thanksgiving dinner that year.

For one year from the time of the transplant, she and the person who received her marrow corresponded anonymously through the HLA Registry Foundation, the organization that had enrolled her as a marrow donor in the first place. Their letters were censored—no personal information was allowed to be exchanged for a full 12 months.

When the year was up, Thanksgiving 1997, both donor and recipient were asked if they wanted to establish contact. Both agreed, and Lee March Grayson, the young lawyer who founded Marrow Power, learned for the first time the name of the woman who had saved his life, and heard her voice when they spoke on the phone.

Since then, Lee’s family and Cheryl’s have gotten together several times, and both feel as if they have newly discovered family members. When Cheryl and Lee first met in person, at the Jersey shore resort town of Cape May, Lee’s mother, Stella Hart Grayson, said to Cheryl, “How can I ever thank you?” Looking first at Lee and then turning to Stella, Cheryl replied, “You thank me? I should be thanking you. You gave me a chance to save a life. And look at the life I saved.”


Lesley Greenhouse
An Angel from Across the Sea

Lesley Greenhouse was a nurse in the UK who signed up as a voluntary marrow donor with the Anthony Nolan Bone Marrow Trust (the UK's largest marrow donor registry) after treating a leukemia patient who died for want of a matching marrow donor. Lesley was married, she had a daughter, and she was on the registry for a number of years before she was tapped as a marrow donor.

However, when the call came in 1995 that she was a match for someone in need, she was pregnant, expecting her second child, and her doctors told her she couldn't donate her marrow until the child was born. By then it might be too late for the person who was counting on Lesley as her one hope in the world.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, 21-year-old Carolyn Krackenfels of Bedminster, NJ (ironically, a town named after one in England), was waiting for a lifesaving matching marrow donor. A leukemia patient whose marrow matched Lesley's, Carolyn was getting worse and needed to proceed with a bone marrow transplant as quickly as possible.

As soon as she heard that someone needed her marrow, Lesley had agreed to go forward. She would donate her marrow as soon as she could.

Fate suddenly intervened: Lesley suffered a miscarriage, making her immediately available as a marrow donor. She entered a local hospital in England, had her marrow extracted, and it was flown to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, where Carolyn was waiting for the lifesaving infusion.

Lesley and Carolyn met for the first time in New York City in 1998. They were each brought out from separate rooms onto the set of a national TV show, called Fox After Breakfast. It was an emotional meeting for both of them. As Lesley told her story to the nationwide audience, she said she felt that while she had lost a child through miscarriage, she had saved a life-Carolyn's-because of the transplant. Knowing that brought her great comfort and gave her life a renewed sense of purpose.

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