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Man remembers family members lost to cancer as he donates to help a stranger

Sep 02, 2022 by Gift of Life Donor Story

Like nearly everyone, David’s family has been hurt by cancer, and when he found the chance to give someone else a chance to survive the disease, he decided to take it. 

“My mom’s parents both smoked, and both died of cancer,” said David. “It wasn’t blood cancer, but cancer touched my family. We lost them fairly young, so I didn’t get to spend as much time with them on their farm as I would have. And my mom lost out on having the best years with her parents as grandparents.” 

David was a student at Ohio University in October 2014 and joined Gift of Life’s registry during Homecoming week celebrations at a drive organized by Hillel at Ohio University.  

“I ran across a booth on campus, and someone asked me to swab,” he said. “If I could help someone survive cancer and have more time with their family, I wanted to do it.” 

Although David got a call that he was a possible match for a patient in late 2019, he did not donate at that time. Most likely a closer match was found that time, and he was put back in the active registry. 

But his chance would come again. In December 2021, David was catching up with his parents on the phone and his mom said he’d received a package from Gift of Life, and he should call them because he was a match again. 

It was a really awesome opportunity and hopefully I’ve given this lady a shot at life. I’m happy I was able to do it, and if that’s all it takes to give someone a second chance at life, I’d do it again.

“This time I learned a lot more, this patient was a woman in her early 30s fighting leukemia,” said David. “The timing worked out really well for donating blood stem cells, I had quit my job and was taking some time off so I was able to go to Florida to Gift of Life’s collection center.” 

“My parents thought it was phenomenal,” he added. “My mom posted about it on Facebook and got a ton of responses.”   

David was thrilled with the excellent treatment he experienced as a donor, and while many people do not realize it, there is no cost to donors – any needed tests, medical exams, meals, travel, and accommodations are covered. 

“The trip to Florida, if you end up donating there, is huge. I was incredibly surprised at the white glove level of service,” he said. “I was picked up at the airport in a luxurious car, stayed at a phenomenal hotel, and everyone was so kind.” 

“Donation went really well,” said David. “I watched movies, it was super easy, I just sat there. The next day I felt perfectly fine, it didn’t prevent me from doing anything.” 

Back at home, David got a great reception from family and friends, including an unexpected reaction from a friend’s father. 

“I have a buddy whose dad is pretty intimidating, and we had a misunderstanding years ago,” he said. “I went to visit my friend a few days after donating and his dad walked over to join the conversation. He had lost his wife to breast cancer, so when he heard what I had done, you could tell I got a lot of brownie points with him.” 

David also had to combat some of the misconceptions about donating blood stem cells or bone marrow. 

“A lot of folks wrongly think marrow is extracted from your spine, that you’re stuck in bed for weeks afterwards,” said David. “So, I was able to say, ‘No, not at all, I sat in a lounge chair for a few hours and watched Netflix, and it felt pretty much like giving blood.’ I go for four mile walks every day and never missed a day.”

“It was a really awesome opportunity and hopefully I’ve given this lady a shot at life,” said David. “She’s young, I imagine she has a husband or wife, maybe a kid, but just giving her a new lease on life doesn’t make me anyone special. I’m happy that I was able to do it, and if that’s all it takes to give someone a second chance at life, I’d do it again.” 

David lives in Columbus, Ohio, where he works at a venture capital accelerator for startups. He graduated from Ohio University in business management and was a member of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity. In his free time, he is working on his pilot’s license, and he’s a motorcycle guy – he loves to ride his Harley – and enjoys seeing the United States. Recently, he drove the back roads to visit Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota, and Wyoming. “I would encourage everybody to take a road trip across the country, everyone was phenomenal, no matter where I was.”