Patient & Donor Meeting

Bone Marrow Donor Sparks Emotional Reunion for Teen Beating Leukemia

In 2004, Kelly and Kenny Orth embraced joy from Guangdong, China, adopting baby Mesa, named after an Arizona town. She thrived, hand-in-hand with brothers and a sister, Kenny's little buddy, the heart of their Arizona home.

by Maya Ward
Public Relations Manager
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In 2004, Kelly and Kenny Orth adopted a baby girl from Guangdong Province, China whom they named Mesa, after a town in their home state of Arizona. Mesa grew up along with her two older brothers and her younger sister in Arizona. Kenny said that growing up, Mesa was his little buddy, always holding his hand.

As Mesa got older, she developed a talent for art, particularly painting and pottery. During her sophomore year of high school, Mesa began to experience various symptoms such as joint pain, dizziness, and gastrointestinal bleeding. Doctors weren’t sure what the cause was, so they ordered a few tests and pre-lab work. The results of the labs showed that Mesa had Acute Myeloid Leukemia.

“After the results, we received a call that we needed to go to the ER immediately. We were confused as to what was happening and it was there that we found out that she had Acute Myeloid Leukemia. I was in shock and tearful as we were led up to the pediatric oncology floor and wondering how I would explain this to Mesa.” – Kelly Orth

After an unsuccessful round of chemo, Mesa’s doctors determined that she would need a bone marrow transplant. The Orth family was scared. Because Mesa was adopted, they knew that she wouldn’t have any matching family members. They also knew that ethnicity plays a role in finding a donor, and were worried that because of the lack of diversity in the donor pool, it would be harder for Mesa to find a match. They had to hope that somewhere out there, her perfect donor existed.

Luckily, a few years prior Benjamin Qiu had registered as a donor with DKMS. He didn’t know much about bone marrow donation at the time, but he was willing to help. Ben was at work in New York City when he got an email from DKMS that he was a potential match for a patient in need, and from there, the process of becoming a donor began.

Ben donated via bone marrow collection, which is an outpatient surgical procedure. To prepare himself for the donation, he spoke with a few medical-minded colleagues, talked with the DKMS staff, and did some research online before going through with the donation.

“It was honestly really smooth for me. I remember taking several days off from work, feeling nervous, Ubering in with my girlfriend the day of early in the morning. Greeted by both nurses and doctors to ensure that I was well taken care of. Was very relieved after waking up from anesthesia a few hours later. The soreness was intense at the time but manageable, and overall just very glad that part of the procedure was done.”

Ben’s cells were then flown from New York to Arizona where they were transplanted into Mesa. Mesa’s transplant was not an easy one, she suffered from an array of side effects and had to be placed in a medically induced coma. But now, a few years post-transplant, Mesa is still cancer-free and her cells are 100% Ben’s. Mesa was able to graduate high school and is now pursuing a career in cosmetology.

On October 21st, 2023 DKMS flew Ben and his soon-to-be wife Ming, who together run the social media account @BingBuzz, to Mesa, AZ to meet Mesa and the Orth family for the first time. They met at Mesa’s grandfather’s home on a sunny Saturday morning in a reunion filled with hugs and lots of tears.

Mesa’s mom Kelly thanked Ben, saying that without him they would be remembering four years of her passing instead of celebrating her fourth re-birthday. Mesa’s grandfather gave Ben a painting of a bee that Mesa had done in the hospital, which had become a family symbol of her fight against cancer. Afterward, Ben and Ming spent the weekend with the Orth family. Traveling to see Sedona and spending time getting to know one another while creating a bond that will last a lifetime.

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