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The Gift of Life from Across the Seas

In April 2014 Keira Kilbane was given a chance at life. She was in need of a bone marrow transplant after her leukemia returned and no immediate family members were a match. Fortunately Benjamin Schulz was a match for Keira and was willing to go through the bone marrow donation process. This donation spanned the seas since Benjamin lived in Dusseldorf, Germany. Benjamin is a hero and we are so happy to have him as part of our family now. Though the outcome is not what we had hoped for, Benjamin still gave Keira a chance at a miracle.He has graciously shared his bone marrow donation experience in his own words (which are natively German) below.

Spring 2010: the blood-cancer-organization (in Germany called Deutsche Knochenmarkspenderdatei or short DKMS) came to my school for a registration-event, because one of my collegues had Leukemia. I took part in the event and got into the worldwide-data-bank.

For more than two years I didn’t hear anything from the DKMS, but then got the Information, that there was a small package for me at the Post-Office. There was the Information that my doctor should take some blood from me and send it to the organization for further surgery, because there might have been someone in the world my genes could fit to and who needed my help.

At the beginning of March I got the call that I was the right donator for someone who needed my bone-marrow. At that time I didn’t know who the person was I probably could help, I just got the Information that in our case only a small operation was possible, the other way of donating without an operation was not possible. But there wasn’t a single moment I was afraid or frightened of anything, so I said yes because I wanted to help.

After making the decision to donate I got a call, that the receiver wasn’t healthy enough for the operation, so the date of the donation got postponed for two weeks.

On March 31st, 2014 I wenn to Cologne for further surgery and got answers for all the questions I had, e. g. how painful it could be, how long I would have to stay in bed and when I would be able to go back to work. While being in the clinic and waiting for the doctors and nurses, I watched the Kuriere taking Tiefkühlboxen out of the building and I realized that these boxes were taken somewhere in the world in the shortest time that’s possible. Any receiver needs the donation in maximum 24 hours.

10 days later I got a letter that the results of medical-tests they did to me were ok and that I was healthy enough for the donation.

On April 15th I went to Cologne again. Two of my best friends came with me, we took some pictures, had dinner and I got to know another donator. Once more our blood was checked and we were informed about the time we would be operated the next day. I was the first patient in the early morning at 8.00, my roommate was next. When I was taken into the operating suite where I got the narcosia, I talked to a nurse, who said I was a hero and she respected what I did. During the anaestesia I tried to concentrate to keep awake, because I wanted to know if it was possible to avoid the narcosia. But I remember that the doctor asked me for my birthday and I answered. But when he wanted to know the second name of my mother, I couldn’t open my mouth and fell asleep. When I woke up, a nurse came to me, told me everything was allright and that my mother had called the hospital an hour before. The next 3 hours I just fell asleep and woke up. Later in the afternoon I called some friends and informed them that I was ok.

In the evening a doctor came to us and asked if I had pain and if we wanted to have some medicine. I had only very small pain, so I didn’t need any pills. The doctor explained that they took a very small piece of blood out of my pelvic bone, so he explained that the person I donated for was very small and light. He told us that the donating has left the hospital, so we were allowed to contact the DKMS for further information about the receiver. A lady told me on the phone the words: 3 years of age, female, USA. When I heard these words I started to cry. I was 33 years old at that time, I have had no children so far, I hoped that if I had a daughter some day and she would be in such a situation, someone would do the same for her. I remember that I talked to my roommate the whole night about life and how special it is to live.

The next day a doctor said good bye to us and informed us about the rights of contact between donator and receiver. While my roommate got sad, because he got to know that his receiver lived in Italy and that this country doesn’t allow any contact, I heared that I could write anonymus letters from that day on and after one year the donator and the receiver could share their adresses , E-Mails and so on. A good friend fetched me from hospital and took me home. She cooked for us and the next days I recovered more and more. more and more Life got regular again.

Two weeks later I got a letter, that the donation seemed to be successful and the patient had only the normal side-effects. So my family, friends and I hoped the best for the receiver. But some weeks later I got the Information that the patient had died. Of course I was very sad and disappointed, but everyone told me that I did my best and the donation maybe has given that person some more weeks on earth and happy moments with his friends and family.

One year later I got a letter that from now on I could give the family of the receiver my personal dates and I got these information about the Kilbanes. Of course it was very sad that I did not get to know the wonderful Keira, but I am happy to know her family and friends. Maybe we meet one day.

As a teacher, I try to inform my students about bloodcancer and donating bone-marrow, so we can do our very best to fight blood-cancer.

3 Comments

  1. Jim & Ronalda Tompkins on January 23, 2017 at 3:14 pm

    This is wonderful piece of writing. Thank God for Benjamin. Hope the Kilbanes get to meet Benjamin. Jim & Ronalda Tompkins. Keira Riley Kilbane’s grandparents.

  2. Alex Huang on January 23, 2017 at 5:18 pm

    Ever what to meet a real-life superhero…. well, he lives in Germany and is a 33+ year old school teacher!

  3. Will on January 25, 2017 at 8:34 pm

    Beautiful story! Of course the ending was not the one any of us wanted..yet Keira lives on through these types of stories and it is so good to hear them and retell them. Who knows how many people in Germany, or around the world that might have their lives changed or receive the help they need thanks to the inspiration of Benjamin, Keira and their message of hope. Great stuff!

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