Patient Story

Heroes Need Our Help

Three heroes who have dedicated their lives to serving and protecting are now looking for heroes of their own.

Sydney Ross, Digital Marketing Manager
by Sydney Ross
Digital Marketing Manager
Further articles

Meet Yolanda Lee, Ron Gerding, and Cody Fulkerson – three military veterans and local service members who are now looking for their own heroes in the form of blood stem cell donors.

Yolanda is a devoted wife, loving mother of four, and doting grandmother of four. She recently retired from the Houston Fire Department after 24 years of service as an engineer operator, and also served in the U.S. Army for 28 years. Her service didn't stop after retirement - she continues to serve alongside her husband, Pastor James Lee, who oversees a local food pantry that feeds over 12,000 clients monthly, where she also assists with pastoral care and ministering to and serving those in need.

On December 26th, 2022 Yolanda woke up with a large bruise on her right side. She went to the ER and was immediately hospitalized due to critically low hemoglobin and platelet counts. After being hospitalized for 4 days of testing, she was diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS); a rare disease of the blood where the stem cells no longer mature into healthy blood cells and the only cure is a stem cell transplant. She hasn’t let her diagnosis stop her from continuing to support her community, but now she needs her community's support.

"I discovered that there were 15,000 other people awaiting a matching stem cell donor. I also learned that the registry was disproportionately deficient of minority donors. Naturally, I wanted to serve in any way possible. Yes, I need to find a match for myself, but I couldn’t overlook the needs of so many others." - Yolanda Lee

Ron is a retired Air Force and Colorado Springs firefighter. He is a husband, father of two and grandfather of five. He enjoys working on cars, woodworking, fishing, and most importantly, spending time with his family.

Ron was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). While life has drastically changed since his leukemia diagnosis with his days now filled with doctor’s appointments, his love for his family continues to keep him positive. After spending his life helping others, Ron is now looking for the help of others by finding a matching donor for himself and others in need.

"My dad has always been the rock for our family, but he’s also a never ending support to his community! He loved being a firefighter because he was able to help others everyday he went to work. On his days off, and now in retirement, he’s always one of the first to help his neighbors to remove snow, help mitigate wooded areas in the neighborhood, and is always willing to lend a helping hand." - Lisa Raulie, Ron's daughter

Cody has lived a life serving and protecting others - serving in the Air Force for four years as a military police officer, six years as a city police officer, and a Missouri State Trooper for 30 years. Now retired, he spends his time coaching the high school football team in Linn, Missouri and has volunteered as an assistant football coach at the Missouri University of Science and Technology for 11 years in Rolla, Missouri. Cody recently got married to the woman of his dreams and has a 10-year-old son and two stepsons.

He recently received the news that he has a very rare form of leukemia called chronic neutrophilic leukemia (CNL). Less than 200 people have ever been diagnosed. CNL is categorized as a persistent increase in the number of white blood cells in the bone marrow, for which, just like Yolanda and Ron, the only cure is a blood stem cell transplant. Cody shared that he wants to find a donor to be able to put a smile on his kids’ faces for years to come and that life is too short to not make other people happy.

"I want to bring as much awareness to this horrific disease as possible. I have lived an entire life of trying to help others - that’s why I spent 41 years in law-enforcement, both military and civilian. Since being diagnosed with this rare form of leukemia, I have learned how easy it is to register to be a possible donor. I’ve learned over my years of service, that there’s nothing more precious than a human life. We should all try to save someone because life is so precious." - Cody Fulkerson

How to Register as a Donor

Anyone between the ages of 18-55 in general good health is eligible to register. All it takes is a 3-minute cheek swab. Click the link below to request your FREE swab kit to be sent directly to your home. All you have to do is fill out a few eligibility questions, wait for your packet to arrive, swab your cheeks, and send everything back in the pre-paid envelope!

You could be the lifesaver Yolanda, Ron and Cody are waiting for, as well as the numerous other patients flight blood cancer and blood disorders.

More ways to help
You can support DKMS in many ways and give hope to more blood cancer and blood disorder patients.