Ruth Cuadra's Personal Profile
Meeting My Donor
Kathy Andrade and Ruth Cuadra
Chicago, IL, February 11, 2000
Just after the first anniversary of my transplant I received the name, address and phone number of my donor. She is Kathy Andrade and she lives in North Carolina. It was so odd to talk to an almost-complete stranger who was so intimately involved in my life. The excitement and curiosity were overwhelming and I didn't know what to say. But somehow we talked for over an hour, and now keep in touch online.
I finally met Kathy in person on February 11, 2000, at a press conference at the Chicago Auto Show, which was organized to promote National Donor Day, an annual event sponsored by Saturn, United Auto Workers, the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP), the Marrow Foundation (now called the Be The Match Foundation), and other medical groups. The NMDP flew Kathy and me and our husbands to Chicago for this event, to "put a human face" on the need for donors — getting the word out for people to donate blood and platelets, join the bone marrow registry, and make plans to donate organs upon death. We repeatedly thanked our hosts for the opportunity that they gave us to meet. They repeatedly thanked us for coming to help them. It was a win-win situation.
The most moving speaker at the press conference was Dr. Kenneth Moritsugu, U.S. Deputy Surgeon General, who is a strong advocate for organ donation. Both his wife and his daughter became organ donors after tragic deaths in separate accidents.
The Big Moment
During the speeches, Kathy sat in the audience. I was hidden so I could watch but not be seen. Dr. Moritsugu brought Kathy to the stage and then called for me to join her. It was very emotional to meet the woman who saved my life but I managed to keep my composure, for the most part. I remember hearing applause, hugging Kathy (people told me it was "a very long hug"), and then stepping back to better see what she looked like.
Ruth Cuadra meets Kathy Andrade
After the press conference Kathy and I were interviewed by a local TV station, a Spanish-language news service, and by Saturn's own press. Kathy and I were instant friends and we got to spend the rest of the day together. She is a wonderful storyteller and laughs so easily that it puts everyone at ease.
Dr. Moritsugu with Kathy and Ruth
Bill Madden, then the president of the AA & MDS International Foundation, honored us by coming to Chicago to share in our celebration. He and his wife Mary Ellen were tireless advocates for those with aplastic anemia and myelodysplastic syndromes.
Kathy, Bill Madden, and Ruth
So, you may ask, how did I make it through a bone marrow transplant and the first year of recovery? A combination of the following:
- family support and the care of my husband
- dedicated doctors and nurses at the City of Hope
- my blood and platelet donors
- taking it one day at a time (sometimes one hour at a time)
- the support of my friends on the AA-MDS-TALK and BMT-Talk listservs
- doing my own research to learn what was happening to me
- being a full partner in my own treatment
- taking care of myself and following the medical guidelines
- plain old luck
- the amazing gift of life from Kathy Andrade!
Ruth and Kathy — new sisters
Kathy was asked why she donated marrow to a stranger. She said "It was the right thing to do. If people like me don't help people like Ruth, who's going to do it?" To me, she is an angel.
I will never be able to thank Kathy enough. I know that it is through her generosity that I was able to reach goals I once doubted were still possible: greeting the Year 2000, celebrating my 50th birthday (which I looked forward to much more than most people do), taking a long trip with my husband for our 25th anniversary, going back to school and getting a master's degree, and continuing to guide my sons. There is no greater gift.
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