A hope-filed reunion.

Author:Coulombe, Charles
 
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City of Hope is a cancer research and treatment center in Duarte, California that well deserves its name. Dedicated to fighting cancer, its victories over the dreaded disease are many. But of all the terrible forms cancer can take, bone marrow disorders are among the worst. Nevertheless, City of Hope has pioneered many new techniques in bone marrow transplants over the years. Bone marrow donations come from healthy donors, often from another state, country, or even continent. Four decades ago, City of Hope came up with the remarkable idea of introducing--subject to mutual consent--donors to the people whose lives they had saved. The result is an annual reunion, the 40th of which occurred last May 6 at City of Hope's Argyros Family Garden.

Hundreds of donors and recipients came together that day, reflecting on the relationships that will endure for their rest of their lives. The gathering--which drew 4,000 donors, recipients, family members and City of Hope staff members and volunteers--felt like a huge family reunion, complete with tents, buffets, and long picnic tables. There was music, memories, and children playing. But the highlight of the day was the introduction of two City of Hope patients and their donors.

The first reunion was that of Dominick Folbrecht, 15, who was first diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2010 when he was nine-years-old. Dominick's treatment at that time was successful, and the cancer went into remission. It returned in late 2014, and Dominick was admitted to City of Hope. But he had no family. Fortunately, the clinical psychologist the cancer center assigned him to had been looking for a child to adopt 0eanelle Folbrecht, Ph.D., already had two teenagers) and Dominick found a home. Lucidly, he found a donor: then 19--year-old Vanessa Brobbey of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.

Not knowing what she wanted to with her life, Vanessa had registered as a donor her senior year of high school. When the call came, she found that the procedure was easier than she thought it would be. She wanted to know immediately afterwards who the recipient was, but due to the donor center's policy, she had to wait one year before her recipient's identity was revealed. When that time ended, she learned about Dominick--how he was in the process of being adopted, and how her gift had allowed him to return to a normal life--especially...

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