NFL player donates bone marrow to man, two years later reveals his true identity
“Do to others what you want them to do to you.” This word did not just mean something for a football player, he lived by this golden rule.
His decision to donate his bone marrow ended in saving a man’s life years after his donation. For two years, the recipient had no idea who his donor was, but the week of the Super Bowl, this anonymous NFL player revealed his identity …
When Roy Coe of Riverside, Missouri, learned that he had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) in 2012, it was a difficult day for him. He was relatively healthy before his diagnosis, so it was a complete shock.
Roy, a retired locomotive engineer for the Union-Pacific Railway, has spent the next three years fighting this blood cancer. He underwent eight cycles of chemotherapy to treat him, and then discovered that his cancer had become a mantle lymphoma …
National Marrow Donor Program
This meant that Roy would need a blood stem cell transplant. While a parent’s gift was the best option, Roy had no one at his disposal to donate. He was forced to rely on the National Marrow Donor Program to match him with a living bone marrow donor.
Waiting On A Transfusion
The next six months were difficult for Roy because he had to wait for a donor for his transfusion. He remembered the day when the need for his transfusion became clear. It was the summer when Roy and his girlfriend, Linda Baur, tried to take a short vacation after July 4th. They drove a few hours and suddenly Roy felt very sick …
A Difficult Time
“I thought I was going to die … I was not able to go to bed because the pain kept me going.” The couple then jumped into the car to return to their hospital in Kansas City, but Roy could not even go that far. They had to stop at home in a hospital in Lexington, Missouri.
The Transplant Was Urgent
Roy was suffering so much from a swollen cell and the swelling of this cell underscored the urgency of a transplant. Shortly after Roy’s hell day, he received the call he had been waiting for. ‘Be The Match’ bone marrow registry had found a donor for Roy and he went through with transfusion …
Roy Wondered Who His Donor Was
The 2016 transplant procedure was a success and Roy spent the next year and a half returning to a normal life. But, almost two years later, Roy began to wonder who his donor was. “My greatest desire was just to put flesh on her, a face in the name, flesh to bone.”
On January 30, 2018, the mystery of Roy’s anonymous donor was finally resolved. KU Northland Cancer Center staff revealed that his donor was an NFL player. Since Roy himself was a big fan of the NFL, he was speechless! The next step was to meet his donor in person …
New Orlean’s Rookie Austin Carr
On the Wednesday night of Super Bowl Week, Be The Match facilitated the game and also offered Roy two Super Bowl tickets. Roy finally met his donor, New Orleans Saints star Austin Carr.
The two men shook hands and Roy said, “We both knew the initial greeting, that a handshake just would not be enough.” That’s right, “said Austin laughing, almost in tears Austin explained when he knew he wanted to become a donor, and told Roy that the process was not smooth.
Be The Match
In 2015, when Austin Carr was a freshman at Northwestern, he had his stamped cheek to join the Be The Match bone marrow registry. Austin was informed by Wildcats kicker Jeff Budzien that the register (which is the largest in the world) was arriving on campus for a donor campaign.
The First Stages
Austin thought why not, and he was one of the 20 Northwestern football players who recorded that day in 2013. Two and a half years later, in November 2015, Austin’s phone rang and it was was Be The Match informing him that he had been selected a potential match. “I was shocked at first,” said Austin. “And very soon after, I prayed, just to ask, what should I do?”
Be The Match informed Austin that they needed the procedure to start immediately because the recipient needed the transfusion as soon as possible. The only problem was that the Wildcats had a New Year’s Cup game, and Austin wanted to be in top form.
First The Outback Bowl
So after a few phone calls, the registry decided to wait to start the procedure that allowed Austin to play in the bowl of the Outback. “I was able to stay engaged in the team and also donate blood and make a commitment to help save someone’s life,” said Austin. A few weeks after the loss of the Wildcats in Tennessee, he began the procedure of donating his blood stem cells …
Affecting Him Greatly
To prepare, Austin had to take a drug called Filgrastim, which increases the number of hematopoietic cells in the blood. He had to do it for five days before the procedure. The first day on Filgrastim, Austin felt normal, but he soon felt pain all over his body and he had to stop training.
“I had pains in the hips that were paralyzed … it was a very distinct and new pain.” Remembering the reason he was doing this, Austin continued with Filgrastim and he underwent the five-hour donation procedure for his stem cells …
The procedure is similar to the dialysis of blood, where blood is drawn by a needle into an arm and passed through a machine that extracts the valuable hematopoietic cells. The remaining blood is then returned to the donor by the other arm.
Roy Awaited The Stem Cells
Immediately after the Austin procedure, his blood stem cells were transported from the Rosemont, Illinois clinic to a hospital in Kansas City, where Roy waited for his transfusion …
After Roy and Austin finally meet after their successful transfusion, they will have a lifelong bond. “As ugly as the world can be, there are always beautiful things and beautiful people,” said Roy. “As Roy said, we teach our kids the rule of thumb, and that’s something I learned in kindergarten,” Austin added.
New Found Love For The Saints
“Treat others as you want to be treated, I’m a Christian, and treating your neighbor as yourself is a fundamental biblical belief,” Austin continued. Roy has been a fan of the Chiefs all his life, but he says that now he will pay more attention to New Orleans. It’s the least he can do because he has a second chance at life thanks to his hero, Austin Carr.