Leukemia Patient Meets Her Bone Marrow Donor | Loyola Medicine
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Leukemia Patient Meets Bone Marrow Donor Who Saved Her Life

Bone marrow transplant patient hugging donor
MAYWOOD, IL – Loyola Medicine patient Kristen Lucca, a 37-year-old single mother of two daughters, is alive today due to an extraordinary gift from a complete stranger.
Ms. Lucca underwent a successful bone marrow transplant to treat an aggressive form of leukemia. The life-saving marrow was donated by Lauriel Wright, 26, of Phoenix, AZ.
On Sept. 23, Ms. Lucca and Ms. Wright met for the first time during Loyola Medicine's annual Bone Marrow Transplant Celebration of Survivorship at the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center.
"I don't know how I will ever be able to thank her," said Ms. Lucca, who lives in Gardner, Illinois. "I'm overwhelmed with gratitude."
In October, 2016, Ms. Lucca was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia after seeing a doctor for bruising on her legs and fatigue. She underwent three rounds of chemotherapy, but the cancer came back. In January 2018, she underwent a bone marrow transplant at Loyola.
Before the transplant, Ms. Lucca received high-dose chemotherapy, which succeeded in killing her cancer cells but also wiped out her immune system cells. To replace those cells, Ms. Lucca received an infusion of Ms. Wright's bone marrow cells, which developed into healthy new immune system cells. The new immune cells also attack any cancer cells that survived the chemotherapy.
Ms. Lucca is in complete remission and her prognosis is excellent, said Patrick Hagen, MD, who performed the bone marrow transplant.
Ms. Wright signed up to become a bone marrow donor after seeing a Be the Match® booth in a shopping mall. Be the Match is operated by the National Marrow Donor Program®, which manages the largest marrow registry in the world.
"I've always wanted to be part of something that was bigger than me," Ms. Wright said. "I wished and prayed that I would be a match for someone."
Thirteen months after signing up for Be the Match and giving a cheek swab, Ms. Wright received a call saying she matched a patient. Ms. Wright immediately agreed to donate. She went to a local hospital, where a large needle was used to withdraw marrow cells from the back of her pelvic bone.
Ms. Wright was sore for a few days and she had to take 10 days off of work because she became anemic. "But I would do it again a million times if it would save someone," she said.
Patrick Stiff, MD, Loyola's division director of hematology/oncology, said he is continually amazed that donors such as Ms. Wright are willing to go through a potentially painful procedure to save the life of someone they have never met.
"Despite all the technology we deploy, we still rely on the good intentions of donors," Dr. Stiff said.
Loyola operates one of the highest volume and most experienced bone marrow and stem cell transplant programs in Illinois. Loyola receives referrals from throughout the Midwest and offers a full spectrum of transplant options provided by an experienced, interdisciplinary transplant team. As an academic medical center, Loyola is able to offer patients access to clinical trials of promising new treatments not available at most centers.

About Loyola Medicine and Trinity Health

Loyola Medicine, a member of Trinity Health, is a quaternary care system based in the western suburbs of Chicago that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, MacNeal Hospital and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services from 1,877 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital in Maywood that includes the William G. and Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, Illinois's largest burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center and a children’s hospital. Having delivered compassionate care for over 50 years, Loyola also trains the next generation of caregivers through its teaching affiliation with Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine and Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Gottlieb is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital in Melrose Park with 150 physician offices, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park. MacNeal Hospital is a 374-bed teaching hospital in Berwyn with advanced inpatient and outpatient medical, surgical and psychiatric services, advanced diagnostics and treatments. MacNeal has a 12-bed acute rehabilitation unit, a 25-bed inpatient skilled nursing facility, and a 68-bed behavioral health program and community clinics. MacNeal has provided quality, patient-centered care to the near west suburbs since 1919.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic healthcare systems in the nation, serving diverse communities that include more than 30 million people across 22 states. Trinity Health includes 94 hospitals, as well as 109 continuing care locations that include PACE programs, senior living facilities and home care and hospice services. Its continuing care programs provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually. Based in Livonia, Mich., and with annual operating revenues of $18.3 billion and assets of $26.2 billion, the organization returns $1.1 billion to its communities annually in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs. Trinity employs about 133,000 colleagues, including 7,800 employed physicians and clinicians. Committed to those who are poor and underserved in its communities, Trinity is known for its focus on the country's aging population. As a single, unified ministry, the organization is the innovator of Senior Emergency Departments, the largest not-for-profit provider of home health care services—ranked by number of visits—in the nation, as well as the nation’s leading provider of PACE (Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly) based on the number of available programs.