Student doctor donates bone marrow, extends a second chance
side note: Yes, I know this doesn’t have much to do with medical malpractice insurance. This story however involves a friend from childhood who I’m incredibly proud of! Dr. Terry (still have a hard time saying that, let along typing it) did an amazing thing by donating bone marrow to a complete stranger. Dr. Terry, who I’ve known since he was a kid, is one of the “good ones” out there! I knew his dad well and he was such a good man, he was funny, and would take the time to get to know you. Dr. Terry…..ok, enough with that…as a kid, I called him “JB”. When I learned that JB’s dad had passed away I was shocked…….he always seemed bigger then life to me and I knew how much of a positive impact he had on JB’s life……I just couldn’t believe it. Even though I had lost touch with JB, I felt like I had to be at the wake to support him during that tough time. I just think it’s awesome that he went forward with this and did something that I think is rare these days: a selfless act.
One year or so ago, I wrote JB to find out how he was doing….he was doing great. He had a lady on his arm on his Facebook profile and he generally looked happy. I wrote him again a few weeks later….this time, I wanted to do him a favor. Ever since I’ve been in this business, medical malpractice insurance for physicians, I’ve learned that there are some brokers out there that don’t play fair. They will say they have access to each insurance company…..but they usually don’t and they will flat out lie to you. Is this everyone? Not at all! But like every industry, there are those who will prey on the people who are not experts……what a claim’s made policy is…..or what type of limits you should have….etc. I let JB know that by no means was I giving him a sale’s pitch, I just wanted him to know that if he ever needs advice, that he has someone to turn to who he can trust. This of course goes for every MD and DO out there……we don’t have to be your agent. We think we’re the best out there, don’t get me wrong. But we know that doctors have formed relationships with other brokers…..so if you want to ask a question, or want to know if your med-mal broker is treating your fairly. Drop us an email and we’ll let you know: firstname.lastname@example.org
During his first year of medical school at ATSU-KCOM, Chicago native Jonathan Terry, D.O., ’09, learned his father had acute myelogenous leukemia, AML.
Nothing short of a bone marrow transplant could save him.
Although a match was identified, the elder Terry did not survive to complete the procedure, losing his battle during his son’s first-quarter final exams. One year later, Dr. Terry added his name to the national bone marrow registry, thinking he would never be called. And with good reason: out of 110 people on the registry, one – or none – will be contacted.
But the call came. Two years after he joined the registry, in 2009, he matched anonymously with a 50-year-old man with AML – the same disease that took his father.
Dr. Terry compares the probability of such a match to winning the lottery because of the small number of those on the registry, an extremely low probability for a match, and the fact that he is Jewish, a minority that lowers the odds of a successful match even further.
A bone marrow match, in which whole DNA sequences must match, is more complex than a blood match, he says. Most people who are on the registry are Caucasian, and overall there’s a limited expression of genes, particularly for minorities.
Nevertheless, despite the odds, Dr. Terry traveled to the University of Maryland in Baltimore – one of five such transplant centers in the United States – to donate his bone marrow. First, he was given five shots of Neupogen, or Filgrastim, which is a granulocyte-stimulating factor that caused his bone marrow to secrete extra CD34 stem cells into the peripheral circulation. The drug, he says, made him experience flu-like symptoms such as bone pain, headache, and extremely high white blood cell counts, representing the stem cells in his peripheral circulation awaiting collection.
Next, with a large-bore IV in each arm, he experienced five hours of plasmapheresis, similar to dialysis, during which his blood was routed, sorted, and returned back to his body after the stem cells had been removed.
Although he was only in the hospital for one day, start to end his donation experience lasted one week. His only thought: “I hope my recipient survives.”
It was a small amount of discomfort, he says, but “incredibly important and literally a matter of life and death for the person on the other end. The thing that surprised me was how easy and relatively pain-free it was. The biggest sacrifice, if you can call it that, was time. But I was back at work the next day – my residency was very helpful in supporting me. It’s a small amount of pain to have the potential to save a life.”
In Dr. Terry’s case, a life indeed was saved. His recipient, known only as “50-year-old male” to Dr. Terry, referred to as “23-year-old male” in their correspondence, was soon discharged from the hospital despite a less than 50 percent chance of graft success.
The survival rate for five years still hovers only around 44 percent, but as Dr. Terry notes, “we can all imagine what someone can do with a few extra years of life without chemo – let alone the distinct possibility of prolonged success.”