Lauren Peyton and her bone marrow donor Frank Vooren celebrated the 16th anniversary of Lauren’s transplant in a Sweet 16 for the ages! Joined by 150 of her closest friends and family at The Staten restaurant in Staten Island, NY, the party was complete with the traditional candle ceremony, candy table, DJ, and special dances. A spectacular Disney themed party truly inspired a “Magic Kingdom” feeling for all of the guests. Lauren herself was dressed up as Cinderella and Frank was clearly prince charming.
“It’s been great getting to know Frank all these years. We text almost every day. Sixteen years later and he still reminds me that if I ever get sick again, he would always donate again. And why wouldn’t you do something like this out of the goodness of your heart? Organ donation and bone marrow donation in Germany is something very different that it is in the United States. There, it’s like you automatically sign up for these things when you’re 18. We need that here.”
When she was just 15 years old, Lauren found out she would need a bone marrow transplant. At the time, her family held a Sweet 16 for her not knowing how her search for a donor would turn out. It was not the type of celebration that the family had been planning to have.
At the time, Lauren's parents Jim and Lorene spread the word about joining the registry and many of their friends and family members signed up. They knew that they might not find a match for Lauren, but maybe they could another family who was going through the same thing that they were. From their efforts, Laurene said that 2 people had been called as matches for other patients.
When Frank registered in Germany to be a bone marrow donor with DKMS in 1997, he was just 18 years old and had never heard of the procedure before. He was compelled by a radio and newspaper story about a boy in his town who had leukemia.
“In Germany at 18, it’s the age that you can drive, register to be a donor...and drink beer. I didn’t know the person who needed the transplant, but I thought I could help. At any time I could get sick, and then I would need help too.”
In 2007, the pair met for the first time in New York and Frank said: “It was the time of my life!”
Twelve years after their initial meeting, it's clear that they share a bond that is visible to everyone around them.
Congratulations to Lauren and Frank!