Four years ago, Bill Eversman began experiencing unusual nausea and fatigue. It became so bad he couldn't even run around and play ball with his two kids. "I just didn't have the energy," he tells Rochester's KTTC-TV. So he went to see his doctor, and after a series of tests he was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia. The diagnosis came with a grim prognosis. Without a stem cell transplant, he might just have "a couple years." As Bill tells KTTC, "[The doctor] said it right out."
As Bill was receiving that news, Anna Longshaw was in her first year of medical school in Oxford, England — 4,000 miles from Bill’s home in Elgin, Minnesota. And one day, during one of her lectures, Anna decided to answer a call for stem cell donors by adding her name to the list. She "just thought" it was "definitely something I would be very happy to do," Anna told the station. "And about a year later, someone needed me."
That someone turned out be Bill. Anna at first had trouble believing that her stem cells were a good match for someone. "My dad's been on the registry for years and years, and never been contacted," she tells KTTC. "It was just a surprise more than anything."
Once Anna's stem cells were extracted from her blood, they were "flown thousands of miles" to Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus, where Bill was waiting. A transplant team at Mayo successfully transplanted Anna's stem cells into Bill. This could have signaled the end of their story: Bill, after a period of recovery, returning to life as usual with his wife and kids, and Anna moving on with her life in England. But that wasn't quite the case.
After Bill's transplant, he and Anna connected online and began exchanging emails. Then, late last week, donor and recipient met in person. Anna and her father flew to Rochester to meet Bill, his family, and his Mayo Clinic care team. "Bill contacted us to let us know Anna and her father were coming to Rochester and to see if we could help them in any way," transplant relations coordinator Kristin Eggebraaten tells us. "He wanted her to meet the doctors and nurses who gave him his transplant." Bill also wanted Anna to be able to see where he had the procedure that changed his life.
And last Thursday morning, she did just that. "I was very nervous," Anna tells KTTC of meeting Bill and his family at Mayo Clinic for the first time. "But that kind of went away as we walked down the corridor toward where I was meeting Bill."
When they saw each other for the first time, Bill tells us he was immediately overcome by emotion. "To be able to actually look in her eyes, hug her, and tell her 'Thank you' was a moment of a lifetime," he says.
You can watch the video of Anna and Bill meeting each other for the first time here. Then, let us know what you think by sharing your comments below and by sharing this story with others.