He tried with his dad, gets another chance
It took him eight years, but Patrick Noland finally found the person he’s been waiting for.
She came in the form of a woman battling acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), probably in some far away region of the country.
Patrick, a 24-year-old Kenmore native, put his name on the national stem-cell donor list in 2000, when his father, Randy Noland, was in need of a transplant to fight the same disease.
The five-year survival rate for AML patients can be as low as 15 percent.
“It was a scary period in my life,” Randy said. “I was in remission, but it could have come back at any time. You’re constantly wondering whether you’re going to find a donor in time.”
Patrick couldn’t donate to his father because his tissue type wasn’t a match.
Randy received a transplant from a man living in Pennsylvania, but Patrick had to wait years for his chance to make a donation.
The registry finally called in early March.
“It was one of the most exciting and rewarding moments of my life,” Patrick said. “It was great that I had a chance to pay it forward like my dad’s donor did.”
Patrick made his potentially life-saving contribution on April 15 in Spokane.
The process involved filtering stem cells from his blood stream through apheresis, a procedure that is most comparable to plasma donation.
Every ounce of Patrick’s blood had to be pumped out one arm and back in the other five times over a five-hour span before the collection was complete.
His procedure began at 4:30 a.m., allowing time to collect the stem cells and deliver them by air for a transfusion the next morning.
Time is short in these situations, as recipients are dangerously low on stem cells. Most have undergone intense chemotherapy to rid their bone marrow of cancer.
Patrick claims the collection process made him tired, but he returned to his job as a Tri Cities news anchor after one day of rest.
“It was like having a long, strenuous workout,” he said.
Patrick also experienced side effects from the four daily injections of filgrastim that he received to increase his stem-cell count before donating.
“The shots make you a bit tired,” he said. “It feels like your going through a growth spurt.”
That’s because his marrow was working overtime at mass producing new stem cells.
“It’s not that bad,” he said, “just a little bit of aching in your bones.”
Patrick said he now ranks stem-cell donation as one of the most meaningful things he’s ever done.
“It’s a remarkable experience,” he said. “You just hope this lady is able to come out of this successfully like my dad.”
It will be a year before the national registry can reveal the identification of Patrick’s donor recipient. He sent her a letter to provide encouragement in the meantime.
“I just wrote about my dad and told her this is a completely winnable situation,” he said. “I let her know that I was looking forward to meeting her in a year.”
Patrick’s dad ended up forming a close relationship with his own donor once they made contact.
The two have met ever since for annual reunions.
“He’s like a family member,” Randy said. “We refer to each other as blood brothers, which we are.”