2 Years Later, Retired Toms River Teacher Meets Bone Marrow Donor
It was more than two years when in a Hometown View segment I shared a story about Lael McGrath who I described at that time as a very active retired 2nd grade teacher from Toms River. Her story centered on learning in August of 2016 that she had acute myeloid leukemia with a recommendation that she undergo a bone marrow transplant as it was her best chance for a full recovery. She had that procedure done in December of 2016 and the segment I aired had to do with a thank you party she was hosting for the family and friends who made up her devoted support group. That party also served as the “Be the Match” swabbing event as McGrath sought those who might consider being a donor as clearly she knew the importance of that.
So let’s move forward to last week when Lael emailed me to say that more than two years later she was going to meet her bone marrow donor in person. Actually, let me backtrack just a bit. After McGrath was diagnosed with AML she was referred to the Blood and Marrow Transplant Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and RWJ University Hospital where they determined she was a candidate for a stem cell transplant. Unfortunately, none of her five siblings were a match so through the help of RWJ and the Be the Match donor registry the search began…a successful one. As I said earlier McGrath had the surgery in December of 2016 and now almost three years later she is in remission and the grandmother of six has returned to that active lifestyle which includes running and yoga.
Now I can go on with the update. As in cases like this, the identity of the donor must remain anonymous for two years and after that period Lael learned that her lifesaver was 21-year old Wiebke Rudolph of Germany who placed herself on a donor registry at the age of 18. The two began communicating and last week just before McGrath’s 68th birthday they met face-to-face in what was an emotional get-together. Rudolph stayed at McGrath’s Toms River home and they were treated to a special reception last Friday at the hospital in New Brunswick which also included Lael’s doctors and other members of her care team.
Clearly Wiebke has now become an unofficial member of the McGrath family and this is one of those stories with a very happy ending. It also brings added attention to the importance of being a donor and for more you can visit www.bethematch.org.