Left: Nasha is pictured with Debbie Howell, recipient. Right: From left are Sandy McKenzie, COO; Debbie Howell, award recipient; and Terri Sullivan, Hamilton Diagnostics Center manager.
DALTON, Ga. (April 18, 2016) – Debbie recently received the
Hamilton Hero Award for giving the gift of life to a complete stranger.
Howell is registered on the Be The Match registry, one that facilitates
life-saving marrow transplants for patients with blood cancers like
leukemia and lymphoma.
Many years ago, Hamilton Diagnostics Center (HDC) had a radiology student who was diagnosed with leukemia and passed away during her two years there. That inspired many HDC associates to register as possible donors.
“Typically, you don’t think of all the risks and sacrifices involved in marrow transplants until you receive a call saying you may be a match for someone and get the details,” said Terri Sullivan, HDC manager.
Howell got that call and went to Vanderbilt for days of testing. She was a perfect donor match for the patient.
The whole process required her to be at Vanderbilt University hospital for four days while receiving injections, and the donation process took an entire day.
At that time, Howell knew very little about the recipient of her stem cells. After a year passed, her recipient, Nasha Foster, contacted her. She is from Manchester, Tenn., and a recent graduate from Tennessee Tech.
“We had an opportunity to meet this past Thanksgiving,” said Howell. “Our families got together. We’ve developed a great relationship.”
Foster is doing well. April 30 will be two years since the transplant,
which is considered a milestone by health professionals. After two
years, complications and reoccurrence are rare.
“This generous gift given to a stranger has turned into so much more than expected,” said Sullivan. Howell says that she feels like she is the one who has been blessed; not the other way around.
“I would encourage anyone age 18 to 44 to join bethematch.org,” Howell said. “It is life-changing for everyone involved. I’m very thankful that God chose me to be the instrument that He would use to save Nasha’s life.”