Marrow recipient surprises her donor on transplant anniversary


Posted on 09/27/2017

Paula Lee is on a mission to ensure everyone knows how easy it is to offer hope to patients with life-threatening blood diseases. 

“As a nurse practitioner I didn’t know about the Be The Match Registry® and how a simple cheek swab can lead to a lifesaving cure for a patient in need,” Lee said. “I want to let the whole world know it is so simple to register, and you may get the opportunity to save someone’s life.” 

Two years to the day following a lifesaving bone marrow transplant, Paula personally thanked her donor publicly. On Saturday, Sept. 23, the Nashville woman recognized Colorado School of Mines football player Shawn Berry with a surprise half-time presentation. 

“He doesn’t realize the magnitude of what he’s done,” Lee said. “Every day I get to be alive because of him.”

Lee relapsed with acute amyloid leukemia in early 2015. Her doctors told her she needed a marrow transplant, specifically of peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC). Like Lee, Seventy percent of the time, those in need do not have a close family member who is a match and depend on the Be The Match Registry® to find a compatible donor.

Berry, a Littleton native who joined the Registry® a couple years earlier, came up as a suitable match. The Chatfield High School graduate made his PBSC donation at Bonfils Blood Center in September of 2015, and the very next day, Sept. 23, Lee received her lifesaving transplant at a Nashville hospital.

Having also received multiple blood and platelet transfusions in her treatment as well, Paula is currently in remission and is determined to spread awareness about how a simple act like joining the Registry® can provide hope for those waiting for a lifesaving match. She shared her story with the Mines football team at their practice Sunday and encouraged more than 100 players and coaches to register themselves.

Bonfils’ Marrow Program facilitates dozens of blood stem cell or marrow transplants every year and places thousands of potential marrow donors from Colorado and Wyoming on the Be The Match Registry®.  If you are age 18 to 44 you can sign up for the Registry online or at any Bonfils Community Donor Center

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Photo Courtesy: Colorado School of Mines/Steve Oathout