The Boston Red Sox made it possible for a stem cell donor and his courageous recipient to experience a special moment at Fenway Park on August 7, 2023, as the two met in person for the first time! Donors and recipients must remain anonymous during the first year after transplant, so these meetings are incredibly emotional and memorable moments.
Lori Bendall, a 40-year-old elementary school teacher, wife, and mother of an 11-year-old daughter, went to the emergency room in July 2021 unable to talk or swallow. She was told she had pharyngitis related to a sinus infection from earlier that week, but a further blood test at her physician’s office raised the suspicion of leukemia, and he sent her to an oncologist the next morning. Her diagnosis was confirmed as acute myeloid leukemia, and she checked into the University of Alabama Birmingham oncology unit, a two-hour drive from her home in Hatton, Ala.
“My first question was, ‘Can I beat this?’” said Lori. “My doctor told me we’d know more after a bone marrow biopsy.” She soon learned that a blood stem cell or bone marrow transplant was her best option for recovery.
Lori was treated during the height of the COVID pandemic, so only one visitor was allowed to see her at a time, and her husband stayed with her at the hospital as much as possible while her doctors searched the registries for a transplant match.
“My brother was not a close enough match to be my donor,” said Lori. “I was completely open to having an unrelated donor if that’s what it took to survive. I was not scared, and three months after my diagnosis, they found my donor.”
That person was Adam Chapman, a 28-year-old electrical engineer from Chelmsford, Mass. Adam was an undergraduate electrical engineering student at Tufts University when he ran across a World Marrow Donor Day recruitment drive organized by Gift of Life’s Campus Ambassadors.
Adam donated stem cells to give Lori her best possibility of beating leukemia and having a second chance at life.
“I think I was on my way to get a cup of coffee,” said Adam. “I decided to throw my hat in the ring – it was an easy decision to swab and it only took a moment. I’m glad I did!”
“My fiancée Jennie and I went to the collection facility in the morning and I had a quick donation, finishing up just after lunch,” said Adam. “Donating is one of the things I am most proud of in my life. No matter what I do or accomplish going forward, I’ll always have this experience to look back on as something worthwhile that I did.”
When the anonymity period expired, Gift of Life worked with the Boston Red Sox to make their meeting an extra special occasion. The two were introduced before the game in a private suite, where they shared a long, emotional hug, and had a chance to visit before the game. Once the game was in progress, they were invited onto the field to greet the audience and share their story.
“I am forever grateful to Adam for the chance to watch my daughter grow up,” said Lori. “I do not take any day for granted, and I find joy in the little things more than ever.”
“I’m so glad to see you’ve recovered,” said Adam. “I feel so lucky, and I’m so happy you’re doing well.”
Many thanks to the Boston Red Sox for making this unforgettable introduction possible.
Adam and his fiancée Jennie live in Chelmsford, Mass. where he is an electrical engineer. Adam graduated from Tufts University. He is appreciating being a new homeowner – mowing the yard is still enjoyable! – and spends time with family and friends playing board games and video games.
Lori, her husband Lucas, and their daughter live in Hatton, Ala., where she teaches elementary school and goes to her daughter’s softball games. She is a graduate of Athens State University, and in her free time enjoys painting and making crafts. Since her recovery, Lori has become more inventive with her classroom lessons, saying, “my perspective about my relationship with the kids has changed.”