How often in life are you asked to save someone’s life?

Luke Harlan donating stem cells to a blood cancer patient.

On May 20, 2008, Erik Sauer, founder of There Goes My Hero, was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML). Following four months at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Erik received a life-saving bone marrow transplant from Isabel, an unrelated donor from Germany.

On the evening of February 19, 2015, There Goes My Hero was gearing up to host our 4th annual Taste For Life (now known as OctoberTaste) fundraising event. As guests began arriving at Pier 5 Hotel, Hero staff and volunteers were excited to provide a night of food, spirits, and hope. Luke Harlan was one of the sixteen potential life-savers that decided to join the bone marrow registry that night. “After Erik Sauer told me his story, I was asked to register and happily did so. It just seemed like a no brainer” says Luke. Four years later on March 1st, the result of that decision finally came to light when Luke was identified as a lifesaving match for a patient in need of a peripheral stem cell transplant. In an amazing turn of events, Luke donated to a 59-year-old man from Germany.

A peripheral blood stem cell donation is the most common of the two ways to donate. It is a 4-8 hour procedure in which blood stem cells are collected via the bloodstream. Blood is drawn through one arm and passed through a machine that filters out the stem cells, and then the remaining blood is returned through the other arm.

“While the urgent nature of the recipient’s worsening condition required an expedited timeline, my overall experience with the donation process was seamless. I never lacked information or instruction. DKMS and my Donor Relations Coordinator were great, they were highly communicative and friendly, I never felt any pressure. She walked me through the process and answered all my questions. Additionally, Georgetown MedStar, where my physical and donation took place, was amazing. Everyone involved couldn’t have been more welcoming, professional and appreciative.”

DKMS covers all travel and medical expenses including my ride-sharing services to and from the physical exam and the bone marrow donation. I paid very little out of pocket, and even those small costs were reimbursed within days of submitting my expense log. In fact, the entire process added up to maybe two days of my time which I was happy to donate. However, they also offer employee compensation programs as well if needed.”

“If you are on the fence about joining the registry, I want to ask you two questions: How often in life are you asked to save someone’s life and actually have the ability to do so? And for what? I had flu-like symptoms for a week after the donation which went away just as they said it would, and I was forever left with the extraordinary feeling that I had saved someone’s life. It was a gift to be able to do so.”

Please join us in thanking Luke for his selflessness! If you are interested in registering, click here to register and receive a swab kit in the mail. Contact us at stephanie.cupp@theregoesmyhero.org or 443-339-4376 if you are interested in hosting a bone marrow drive at your office, place of worship, or community gathering.