South Florida Hospital News
Sunday July 21, 2019
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July 2019 - Volume 16 - Issue 1

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BRONX MAN WHO BATTLED SICKLE CELL ANEMIA MEETS HIS LIFE-SAVING MARROW DONOR FOR FIRST TIME

Photo: (left) Becky Lyle-Sulkin, 30, and (right) Nelson Sanchez, 18, met for the first time at the Gift of Life Marrow Registry’s Cocktails and Conversations event in Aventura, Fla., on Thursday night.

 
AVENTURA -  A Bronx, N.Y. man finally met the St. Paul, Minn. woman who saved his life with a bone marrow transplant through the Gift of Life Marrow Registry, at Gift of Life’s Cocktails and Conversation event on Thursday night. 
 
During a highly emotional meeting, Nelson Sanchez, 18, a college student majoring in business administration, embraced Becky Lyle-Sulkin, 30, a program coordinator at Jewish Family and Children’s Service in Minneapolis. Sanchez’s recovery from sickle cell anemia marks the first time a Gift of Life Marrow Registry donor has cured a recipient with that disease. 
 
Lyle-Sulkin, a wife and mother of a one-year-old, joined Gift of Life’s registry in 2013, never dreaming a simple cheek swab would one day lead to being a match. However, two years ago Sanchez, who was battling debilitating sickle cell anemia, learned he finally found a donor.
 
“I never thought this day would come,” said Sanchez. “Through all of the struggles, I kind of just wanted to give up, but something told me, ‘keep on going, push forward, something great will happen to you in the future.’ If it wasn’t for Becky, I could be dead.”
 
Because marrow registries are predominantly populated by Caucasians, Sanchez is particularly fortunate, because 55 percent of Hispanic/Latinos who are battling leukemia, lymphoma, other cancers and genetic diseases never find a donor match compared to Caucasians who can find a donor 98 percent of the time.
 
Before the meeting, Lyle-Sulkin said she only did what any other person would do. “More than anything, though, I consider myself lucky. To match with someone is incredibly lucky. It has been the greatest honor of my life to have someone trust me with their life in this way,” she said.
 
By law the pair had to remain anonymous for at least a year post-transplant, and only learned one another’s identities last night.
 
Since its start in 1991, Gift of Life has grown the registry to more than 338,000 individuals who have volunteered to donate blood stem cells or bone marrow to save a life. In the process, the organization has facilitated over 15,500 matches for those with a range of blood cancers, resulting in more than 3,400 transplants.
 
For more details about Gift of Life, please contact Joe Berkofsky, at joe@puderpr.com. 
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