In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

August 8, 2017

1,000 Miles to Meet, Thank Her Donor

By In the Loop

Two years ago, Peter Favilla donated bone marrow that helped save Michelle Hayes’ life. And earlier this summer, she and her husband drove from Texas to Minnesota to thank him.

Two years ago, Peter Favilla donated bone marrow to help save the life of Michelle Hayes, whom he'd never met. This summer, Michelle and her husband drove from Texas to Minnesota to thank Peter in person.

Up until the second Peter Favilla's phone rang one fateful day two years ago, he'd forgotten that he'd added his name to the national bone marrow registry years earlier while attending graduate school. "I received a phone call from the Indiana blood center," Peter tells Minneapolis-St. Paul's KARE 11. "And I had no idea why they were calling me."

They were calling, KARE 11 reports, because a 47-year-old woman in Texas who had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia needed a bone marrow transplant to survive. And Peter, they said, was a perfect match.

Michelle Hayes, a kindergarten teacher from Baytown, Texas, was running out of options. Testing revealed that no one in her immediate family was a viable match. "They didn't think she was going to make it," Michelle's husband, Steve Hayes, tells the station.

After receiving the call, Peter shared the story with his teenage daughter. Her reply: "It's not like it's a choice, of course you're going to do it,'" Peter tells KARE 11. So Peter drove from his home in the Twin Cities to Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus, where surgeons removed more than a liter-and-a-half of bone marrow from his pelvis. "And within 24 hours or so, it was part of Michelle," he tells the station.

Fast forward two years to this summer. After months of planning, Michelle and Steve drove 1,000 miles from their home in Texas to the Twin Cities to say "thank you," she tells KARE 11, and "meet the person who gave me my life."

The heartwarming encounter that transpired is nothing short of magical to William Hogan, M.B., B.Ch., medical director of Mayo Clinic's bone marrow transplant program in Rochester. "There are many cancer survivors living today who have truly been given the gift of life by the tremendous generosity and kindness of donors such as Peter," Dr. Hogan says. "Every donor provides hope for a cure, often in circumstances where no other hope is available."

But only after subjecting themselves to "a significant medical procedure for the benefit of a complete stranger," which Dr. Hogan tells us makes gestures like Peter's all the more remarkable. "I am constantly amazed and humbled by the love and generosity of people such as Peter who are willing to offer a unique, life sustaining gift to someone's father, mother or child in their hour of greatest need," he says.

You can watch Peter and Michelle meet for the first time yourself:

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Tags: Bone Marrow Transplant, Dr. William Hogan, Leukemia, Patient Stories

To give someone you don’t even know a second chance in life to live by donating a part of yourself is such an unselfish and most generous act of of love.

Mary Swist

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