KNOXVILLE (WATE) - You know the story of Anna Martin, the Knoxville 10-year-old who beat leukemia with a bone marrow transplant 15 months ago. When she was first diagnosed, the family held a bone marrow registry drive, hoping to find her a match. More than 700 people registered that day. While none of them was a match for Anna, one teenager matched someone else in need.
All it took was a simple cheek swab at his church back in June of 2011 and 19-year-old Jared Wilson joined the national bone marrow donor registry.
"Mainly it was because of Anna," he explained. "We were hoping we would be the match for her."
He got the call last fall that he was a match, not for Anna, but for a 47-year-old man with the same type of leukemia she was diagnosed with.
"Recently my uncle got cancer and died. To think I could help someone else live and help their family spend more time with them, even if it wasn't for long, it was worth it," Jared said.
After some blood tests in Knoxville, Jared traveled to Vanderbilt hospital in Nashville for five days of out-patient injections and then the four-hour harvesting of his bone marrow.
"They take a needle into one arm to take the blood out and then they run it through a machine that takes out the blood stem cells and then they put the blood back in your other arm," Jared said. "My arms hurt a little bit and the stuff they gave me for it kind of made me nauseous, but other than that it wasn't too bad."
He went back to Knoxville the same day with no other problems.
"It was definitely worth it," he said.
Anna meanwhile, who found her match in a 31-year-old stranger, is doing great, 15 months after her transplant.
"I feel better, but not to my old self," she said.
After missing more than a year of school, she's back on track in the 6th grade.
"I love it," she said. "I like just getting to see my friends."
"There's some post-transplant pain, just aches and pains and fatigue and lack of energy, but overall she's done better than anyone ever expected," said Anna's mom Kristen.
And it's all thanks to someone like Jared who decided to save a stranger's life.
"Just to know that after our journey, as tough as it was, that good things can come from it and to know we can potentially help another person recover and be able to live, it's the gift of life. Look at her, there's not a better gift someone can give," Kristen said.
There is another way to donate bone marrow, through a needle into the hipbone, which is done under anesthesia and can also be an out-patient procedure. Medical and travel costs are usually paid by the recipient's insurance and the National Marrow Donor Program.