All the odds were stacked against Jimmy Roberson, a man in Birmingham, Alabama.
It all began in 2013. Jimmy was on a trip to the lake, but the relaxing day suddenly took a turn that flipped his life upside down.
“All of a sudden the lake started spinning,” Jimmy told ABC NEWS “I got really dizzy. I felt so weak I dropped to my knees.”
After medical testing, Roberson was diagnosed with a severe form of aplastic anemia. Aplastic anemia is a rare, but dangerous blood condition. It happens when stem cells are damaged, which prevents the patient’s bone marrow from making sufficient amounts of new blood cells. Sometimes it develops gradually, other times it appears out of the blue, at any point in life. To learn more about this rare disorder, click here.
Aplastic anemia can be treated through various medications or blood transfusions, but these methods didn’t work for Jimmy. The doctors told him that if he wanted to live more than 6-9 months, he needed a bone marrow transplant. First, they looked to his family, but nobody was a bone marrow match.
Time was running out, but the doctors couldn’t find a match for Jimmy. The odds were not in his favor. Bone marrow stem cell transplants are especially tricky. Since you’re replacing part of the immune system, which differentiates the substances in your body that are “you” or “not you”, you need to find someone who matches you exactly. Otherwise the transplant is rejected.
The chance of finding a perfect match for him were one in 24 million.
Jimmy started preparing for the worst. He took a final trip to beach with his wife, to see the ocean one last time. Just as they returned home, Jimmy got a call.
The Be The Match network had found a mystery donor who was an exact match. Jimmy had won the transplant lottery.
Jimmy just passed the three year anniversary of his successful bone marrow transplant, which he marks each November with a re-birthday cake. He’s incredibly grateful for the second shot at life. He thanks the lord, as well as the woman who he calls his “special angel.”
Jimmy and his family wanted badly to meet this mystery perfect match, and thank the donor for saving his life. Because of confidentiality agreements, it took two years before, with the permission of both parties, the network revealed her name. He had been saved by a 27-year-old nurse, living in Germany, an ocean away. She and her roommate had both decided to register together.
The Roberson’s invited the nurse to visit them in Alabama. When Jimmy finally met her, he was speechless. Jimmy experienced something that not many people do– he got to meet the person whose stem cells now produce blood in his body, the woman who is now a part of him.
Although the path was difficult, Jimmy calls it “a good journey.” He shares his story in hopes that it will inspire someone to think about registering as a bone marrow donor– even just one person could save a life.