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March 2016

Finding a Human Leukocyte Antigen Match—A Perfect Stranger

Author Affiliations
  • 1 College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific, Western University of Health Sciences, Pomona, California
JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(3):297. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.7811

A perfect stranger saved my life. He didn’t jump in front of a moving vehicle or fend off an attacker. He wasn’t perfect for the reasons one might think, but for my predicament, he was indeed perfect—a 10 out of 10 match, to be exact. I required such a match to survive.

As a senior in high school, my classmates had voted me “most likely to cure cancer.” Ironically, a year later, I found myself lying in a hospital bed, after being diagnosed with leukemia. The conundrum was that I felt fine and was anxious to begin my summer of organic chemistry as part of a combined undergraduate and medical school program. At 19 years old, I was completely unprepared to be diagnosed with cancer, admitted to the hospital, and informed I would need an urgent bone marrow transplant and chemotherapy, all in the same day. I had planned out my life for as long as I could remember, and suddenly nothing was under my control.

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