“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This saying didn’t just mean something to one football player, he lived by this golden rule.
His decision to donate his bone marrow wound up saving the life of one man years after his donation. For two years the recipient had no idea who his donor was, but the week of the Super Bowl, this anonymous NFL player revealed his identity…
When Roy Coe, from Riverside, Missouri learned he was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL), in 2012, it was a difficult day for him. He was relatively healthy prior to his diagnosis, so this came as a complete shock.
Roy, a retired locomotive engineer for Union-Pacific railroad, spent the next three years battling this blood cancer. He underwent eight rounds of chemotherapy to treat it, and then he found out his cancer had become mantle cell lymphoma…
National Marrow Donor Program
This meant Roy would need to a blood stem cell transplant. While donation from a relative was the best option, Roy didn’t have anyone available to donate. He was forced to rely on the National Marrow Donor Program to match him with a live bone marrow donor.
Waiting On A Transfusion
The next six months were difficult for Roy as he had to wait on a donor for his transfusion. He remembered the day the need for his transfusion became clear. It was the summertime when Roy and his girlfriend, Linda Baur tried to take a short vacation after the fourth of July. They drove a couple of hours and suddenly Roy felt very sick…
A Difficult Time
“I thought I was going to die…I wasn’t able to go to bed because the pain was keeping me up.” The couple then jumped back in the car to return to their hospital in Kansas City, but Roy couldn’t even make it that far. They had to stop halfway back home, at a hospital in Lexington, Missouri.
The Transplant Was Urgent
Roy was in so much pain from a cell that had swelled up and the swelling of that one cell highlighted the urgency of a transplant. Shortly after Roy’s day of hell, he received the call he’d been waiting for. ‘Be The Match’ bone marrow registry had found a donor for Roy and he went through with the transfusion…
Roy Wondered Who His Donor Was
The 2016 transplant procedure was a success, and Roy spent the next year and a half transitioning back to a normal life. But, almost two years later, Roy began to wonder who his donor was. “My biggest desire was just to put flesh to him, a face to the name, flesh to the bone.”
On January 30, 2018, the mystery of who Roy’s anonymous donor was finally solved. Staff at the KU Northland Cancer Center revealed to him that his donor was an NFL player. Being that Roy was a huge NFL fan himself, he was speechless! The next step was to meet his donor in person…
New Orlean’s Rookie Austin Carr
On Wednesday night of Super Bowl week, Be The Match, facilitated the meeting and also provided Roy with two tickets to the Super Bowl. Roy finally met his donor, New Orleans Saints star, Austin Carr.
The two men shook hands and Roy said, “We both knew that the initial greeting, that a handshake just wasn’t going to be enough. “That’s true,” Austin said with a laugh, nearly in tears. Austin explained the moment he knew he wanted to become a donor, and he told Roy that the process was not a smooth one…
Be The Match
Back in 2015 when Austin Carr was a freshman at Northwestern, he got his cheek swabbed to join the Be The Match bone marrow registry. Austin was told by Wildcats kicker, Jeff Budzien, that the registry (which is the largest in the world) was coming to campus for a donor drive.
The First Stages
Austin figured why not, and he was one of the 20 Northwestern football players that registered that day in 2013. Two and half years later, in November 2015, Austin’s phone rang and it was Be The Match informing him that he’d been selected as a potential match. “I was shocked initially,” Austin said. “And then very soon after, I prayed. Just to ask, what should I do?”
Be The Match informed Austin that they needed the procedure to begin immediately because the recipient needed the transfusion as soon as possible. The only problem was, the Wildcats had a New Year’s Day bowl game, and Austin wanted to be in top shape for it.
First The Outback Bowl
So, after a few phone calls, the registry decided to wait to begin the procedure which allowed Austin to play in the Outback bowl. “I was able to remain committed to the team and also give blood and commit myself to helping save someone’s life,” Austin said. A few weeks after the Wildcats’ loss to Tennessee, he began the procedure to donate his blood stem cells…
Affecting Him Greatly
To prepare, Austin had to take a drug called Filgrastim, which boosts the number of blood-forming cells in the bloodstream. He had to do this for five days prior to the procedure. The first day on Filgrastim, Austin felt normal, but he soon felt soreness all over his body and he had to stop working out.
“I got bursts of pain in my hips that were crippling…It was a very distinct and new kind of pain.” Reminding himself the reason that he was doing this, Austin continued with the Filgrastim and he underwent the five-hour procedure of donating his stem cells…
The procedure is similar to blood dialysis, where blood is removed through a needle in one arm and passed through a machine that sifts out the valuable blood-forming cells. The leftover blood is then returned to the donor through the other arm.
Roy Awaited The Stem Cells
Immediately after Austin’s procedure, his blood stem cells were flown from the clinic in Rosemont, Illinois, to a hospital in Kansas City, where Roy waited for his transfusion…
After Roy and Austin have finally met each other after their successful transfusion, they will have a lifelong connection. “As ugly as the world can get, there are still beautiful things in it and beautiful people in it,” Roy said. “Like Roy said, we teach our kids the Golden Rule, and that was something that I learned in kindergarten,” Austin added.
New Found Love For The Saints
“Treat others as you want to be treated. I’m a Christian, and treat your neighbor as yourself is a core biblical belief,” Austin continued. Roy has been a Chiefs fan his entire life, but he says that now he’ll pay more attention to New Orleans. It’s the least he can do being that he has a second chance at life thanks to his hero, Austin Carr.