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University of Iowa News Release

 

Oct. 18, 2007

Participants to 'Celebrate Life' at transplant reunion

Approximately 400 patients who have received a bone marrow or blood stem cell transplant, their related and unrelated donors, families, and caregivers will attend the 10th annual Celebrating Life Reunion from 1 to 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19, at the Quality Inn & Suites at 2525 N. Dodge St. in Iowa City.

The reunion event is sponsored by the Blood and Marrow Transplantation Programs at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and the Iowa Marrow Donor Program. One of the many special moments that will occur during the reunion will be the first-ever meeting between a patient and the man who saved his life more than 12 years ago.

Brad Livingston of Peoria Heights, Ill., at the time age 39, was diagnosed with leukemia during the holiday season in 1994. He learned that his best chance to survive was to undergo a marrow transplant, but he was devastated to find out that no one in his family shared his tissue type. The search began for a matched donor from the pool of healthy volunteers registered worldwide.

In early 1995, a match was found. Livingston received his transplant on March 23, 1995. He has been waiting ever since to thank the special person who saved him.

Although unrelated donations are anonymous for the first year, many patients and donors have the opportunity to meet following this waiting period. Livingston called UI Hospitals and Clinics in 1996 about contacting his donor.

The search to identify Livingston's hero took more than 10 years. On Friday, Livingston will come face-to-face with Andrew Bowman, the Ferrum, Va. man whose act of kindness has led to a rich and full life for Livingston.

Specialists at UI Hospitals and Clinics performed the first marrow transplant there in 1980. Since then, more than 1,700 people have received transplants there. The unit currently transplants more than 75 people each year.

Roger Gingrich, M.D., Ph.D., directs the Blood and Marrow Transplantation Programs and serves as associate director for clinical affairs in the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the UI.

"As a transplant team, our goal is to restore people back to their lives," Gingrich said. "When patients come and stay with us for their transplants, we see them at their most vulnerable. At our Celebrating Life Reunion, we meet again in the arena of renewed life."

Colleen Reardon Chapleau, director of the Iowa Marrow Donor Program, added, "This event is a true celebration of the spirit. We share stories, triumphs and challenges. What stands out each year is the message of hope embodied in the courageous people who have fought cancer and who now give back to help others."

People in need of a blood stem cell transplant are diagnosed with a life-threatening disease such as leukemia, lymphoma or aplastic anemia. A blood stem cell transplant involves using high doses of anticancer drugs or radiation to destroy the patient's diseased marrow and then giving the patient healthy blood stem cells as a replacement. In an autologous transplant, the patient's own blood stem cells are harvested, possibly treated, and then transplanted. In an allogenic transplant, another person donates the healthy marrow or blood stem cells.

Each year, more than 30,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with diseases treatable by a blood stem cell transplant. However, of the patients needing to receive healthy blood stem cells from someone else, only 30 percent have a suitable family match, leaving the remaining 70 percent to rely on unrelated donors.

NOTE TO EDITORS: The welcome and opening remarks will occur at 2 p.m. The meeting between Livingtson and Bowman will occur between 2:30 and 3 p.m. For assistance in covering this event, please contact Tom Moore at 319-356-3945.

STORY SOURCE: Joint Office for Marketing and Communications, University of Iowa Health Care, 200 Hawkins Drive, Room E110 GH, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1009

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Moore, 319-356-3945, thomas-moore@uiowa.edu