I was about 9 or 10 years old at Tussing Elementary School. I remember there was is boy, Ryan, who was very sick. At the time we didn’t understand what “very sick” meant. All we knew was that he had to miss school a lot and couldn’t participate in all the fun activities with the rest of us due to his illness. One day, our school put together something that looked like a bake-sale but was actually a DKMS Stem Cell Donor Drive. Ryan needed a stem cell transplant and all the adults were asked to consider joining the donor pool to help Ryan and other patients like him. My dad was one the many people who signed up.
My dad has always been the person I looked up to. He taught me to be kind and empathetic. He taught how to be respectful but still stand strong for what I believe in.
Let’s fast forward seven years, while dad is at work, he gets a call from DKMS saying he is a match for a young man in need of a lifesaving transplant. Without a second thought, he was all in. With the support of my mom, dad worked through the next step in the process. As they both managed the logistics of the donation with the DKMS staff, not once did mom or dad think of this as in inconvenience. For dad, if he could give someone a fighting chance, he will do whatever it takes.Register now
A year after, in May while I prepare for prom and the last few weeks of high school, my parents decided to plan a mini road trip…. an 8-hour drive to meet the man who got a second chance at life because of my dad. As it turned out, like us, Dalton and his family also live in Virginia, just in a different city. When I saw my dad greet Dalton with a handshake and hug, and then Dalton’s wife wrap her hands around my dad with tears of joy and gratitude, it just set in. In that moment I realized the impact my dad made on this family beginning with a simple check swab seven years ago.
Growing up, dad would be at my school events, football games. We would watch movies together, go on small trips, and just chit-chat whenever we felt like it. Spending the day with Dalton’s family, I saw how precious these typically father-son moments are. Dalton, who was diagnosed with blood cancer just a few months after his son’s birth, now has the opportunity to run after his toddler and build all these memories.
When I was little, I would always look up at Dad and wish that one day I can grow up to be as strong as him. That weekend with Dalton and his family, without saying a single word, dad taught me we don’t need incredible strength or any super powers to be a hero. All it takes is for us to reflect upon our humanity and step up when someone needs our help. So on my 18th birthday which happened just three weeks after one of the most memorable moments for our family, with my dad by my side (and mom on camera), I too signed up to be a stem cell donor. If ever there is a time I can give someone a second chance at life, I will be honored to help. I hope one day I am able to be the hero my dad is today.