Bone Marrow Transplant Transforms Two Lives
Apr 05, 2021 Nicole Levine
German. Female. 27.
Those are the only three things Christy Canin knew about the woman saving her life five years ago when she needed a bone marrow transplant.
After waiting the two years Germany requires before a donor and recipient can get to know each other, Christy has learned much more about her donor Aline Müske. The two have forged a close bond through weekly video calls, countless texts and three in-person visits.
The three qualities Christy now associates with Aline: Generous, humble, kind beyond words.
"It's hard for me to think about the dark place I was in before the transplant, but it is good to remember if only to always appreciate every day because of my blessed donor," Christy says. "She gave me the gift of life. How do I ever repay her? Only by being the best person I can be and celebrating every day of my life."
Waiting for a Donor
Christy worked long hours as a manager for an insurance company. She blamed work and stress for her exhaustion, but the fatigue didn't let up. Her husband, Frank, convinced her to see a doctor. Her blood work showed shockingly low blood cell counts, and she was promptly referred to a hematologist to conduct a bone marrow biopsy.
The diagnosis: Aplastic anemia, a rare blood disease in which the bone marrow stops producing enough new blood cells.
For a while, blood transfusions kept her symptoms at bay. Twice, she tried inpatient infusions of antibodies intended to suppress the immune cells attacking her bone marrow. After talking with Dr. Ronald Paquette, a hematologist with Cedars-Sinai's Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute, they decided a bone marrow transplant, which involves a transfusion of stem cells, was her best option.
Dr. Paquette started the search for a donor. At one point, they identified a candidate and just days before the procedure, the donor dropped out—a devastating blow for Christy.
"My daughter told me, 'That wasn't your donor.' hat wasn't the person for you,'" she says. "We had to have a lot of faith."
"It's hard for me to think about the dark place I was in before the transplant, but it is good to remember if only to always appreciate every day because of my blessed donor and she gave me the gift of life. How do I ever repay her? Only by being the best person I can be and celebrating every day of my life."
An Eye for the Essentials
"Even before the donation, my mind knew what is important to me in life. But in everyday activities, I was also driven by the pursuit of success in many situations. Work, study, sport."