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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Essex native inspires others to donate bone marrow

- his donation helped save the life of a young girl -

Photo by Roxanne Low - Bone Marrow donor Chris Warner, an Essex native, with donation recipient, Marley, when the two met in BC recently.  

by Sylene Argent

When Essex native Chris Warner attended a fundraising dinner in 2011 for the Katelyn Bedard Bone Marrow Association, he had no idea a simple cheek swab would eventually save the life of a little girl on the other side of the county. He had simply attended the dinner to show support to the cause and to his father and his fiancé, who were involved in raising funds for the charity.   

  While at the dinner, a volunteer swabbed his cheek to file away his DNA so if he were to match someone in need, he could donate blood or bone marrow. Over the years, he forgot about the swab, until he received a phone call in 2015 from OneMatch that indicated someone with a rare cancer was in need and he could be the one to help.

  After multiple calls between Warner and representative of OneMatch, it was discovered he truly was the best candidate. He was told he could donate blood or bone marrow to help whomever was in need.

  “I had heard the process for bone marrow [donation] was painful,” Warner said. So, at that point he offered to donate blood. He was then told the eventual recipient truly would benefit from a bone marrow donation.

  “I said ‘yes.’ I didn’t want to say no,” Warner recalled. So, he agreed to go through the process, wanting to help this stranger in need as best he could. Soon after, Warner traveled to Toronto to go through the donation process.

  Going through the extraction of his bone marrow was nowhere near as painful as he thought it would be, and he hopes others who may be hesitant to go through the procedure out of fear of pain will learn from his story.

  “I was a bit sore for a few days and a bit stiff while walking around for a while,” but what he experienced was nothing compared to what he imagines the recipients of the donations are going through. He noted everyone reacts differently to any procedure, but his experience was similar to stories of other donators he had been told.

  Warner and his wife Courtney wanted to find out who the recipient of the bone marrow was, but had to wait a year before they could reach out. In the mean time, the couple wondered how the stranger was doing and if the bone marrow had been helpful.

  Around a year ago, Warner came into contact with the recipient’s family. Both parties were eager to contact each other. Last summer, Warner received a letter from Ashley Payette, mom to then four-year old Marley of British Columbia.

  Reading that letter was emotional for Warner and his wife. “No mater who it was, I was relieved. But, when we saw the recipient was a kid, it took it to another level.”

  The two families met recently when Warner and Courtney planned a special trip to BC to meet Marley and her mom.   

  In October of 2015, Payette explained, her daughter was in serious need of a bone marrow transplant. By November of that year, a donor, Warner, had been found.

  “I knew if we did not find one, myself or Marley’s dad would have to be her donor. But, knowing we would only be 50% at most was unsettling,” she noted.

  “As soon as I was told a donor was found, I felt overwhelmed with relief and immediately was curious about who this donor could be; if it was a male or female or their age or where they lived and why they were on the registry. I was immediately grateful for this mystery person.”

  Payette continued that meeting Chris and his wife, Courtney, “Was one of the most unreal, emotional, and, hands-down, one of the greatest moments in my entire life [that] I will never forget.

  “Marley and Chris hit it off immediately and absolutely share a special bond and I couldn’t be happier having Chris and Courtney in our life. They will be a part of our family forever and I am so happy to have them in our life,” Payette said.

  She can’t help but tear up every time she thinks about the donation, “It was unbelievable, You can’t even put into words how you feel. This stranger from across Canada saved my little girl’s life. Marley is still alive because of Chris and his donation.”

  There will never be enough ways to say ‘thank you’ or any explanation powerful enough to describe how forever grateful she is for Warner and his kind gesture, Payette said. 

Warner hopes his story will inspire others to learn if they are eligible to become a blood or bone marrow recipient. “It is a good way to promote the chance of saving somebody,” he noted.

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