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Bone Marrow Donor, Recipient to Meet for First Time at Duke Event

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Duke Health News 919-660-1306

DURHAM, N.C. -- Anne DeDecker wakes up these days feeling incredibly blessed. A total stranger saved her life last year, a man she will finally meet in person at the 8th annual Duke Adult Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion Saturday, June 11.

DeDecker received his bone marrow in February 2004 to treat her blood disease, severe aplastic anemia. A friendship has budded over the past two months as DeDecker and her donor, 26-year-old Rob Nugent from New York, communicated through letters and emails. They were only allowed to communicate one year after the transplant. Approximately 15 friends and family members will accompany DeDecker to celebrate her recovery and to meet the man she says offered "such a selfless gesture."

DeDecker will be among more than 300 current and former patients, their families and friends attending the event. Activities will begin at 10:00 a.m. with a registration and breakfast, followed by breakout educational sessions for patients, families and friends. Gwynn Long, M.D., will speak to the entire group in the research and treatment update session. The highlight of the day will be at 12:30 p.m. when Nugent and DeDecker will officially meet.

DeDecker was diagnosed in June 2003. Her bone marrow was unable to produce sufficient numbers of blood cells. After exhausting traditional treatment options, doctors determined that her only chance of recovery was a bone marrow transplant. Her three brothers were tested as potential donors, but none was a suitable match. DeDecker was then placed on a national donor list to wait for a donor whose blood "antigens" matched her own.

Luckily for DeDecker and her family, Nugent -- a college student at the time – had heard a speaker at his fraternity discuss the potential of becoming a bone marrow donor. Without a second thought, he signed up.

"If you can help someone, why wouldn't you?" Nugent said.

When DeDecker's request entered the system, Nugent was contacted for a donation. In February 2004, he underwent two days of procedures in New York to help a woman in North Carolina that he had never met.

While Nugent was in the hospital in New York, DeDecker was in North Carolina, receiving high doses of radiation and chemotherapy to wipe out her deficient marrow. Nugent's donated cells arrived and were infused into DeDecker, where they multiplied and replaced her deficient marrow.

After 40 days in the hospital, the transplant was deemed a success. DeDecker was able to go home to her husband and her two children. Despite the difficulties, she says she would not trade this experience because she has seen such generosity from Nugent, her church, her children's school and the whole community.

DeDecker said she is looking forward to meeting Nugent. "I don't know how to thank him for what he has done. He is such a sweet and humble person."

For more information, visit the Bone Marrow Transplant Program site.

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