In October 2020, Gary Hurst received the news no one ever wants to hear: he had cancer. Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), to be specific. Fast forward to March 2021, and he was fortunate enough to receive his life-saving transplant, thanks to a selfless stranger who donated his blood stem cells.
Heroes in the hospital
Because he received his blood stem cell transplant during the COVID-19 pandemic, not even Gary’s wife, Lauren, was allowed to be by his side as he embarked on his recovery journey—which is still ongoing—for 4 weeks post-transplant.
However, Gary was far from alone: He says he was supported by a wonderful team of nurses, with whom he enjoyed many conversations during recovery. “They were very caring, terrific humans,” Gary recalled. “They’re the kind of human beings you’d love to have as your best friends. I’ll always remember them.”
Upon leaving the hospital, Gary was so weak that he had to relearn how to walk again. Despite the difficulties, though, Gary felt blessed to have such a wonderful medical team and considers them “heroes,” along with all those involved in the transplant process.
Gary recognizes the unique role we all can play when it comes to giving people the chance to receive a life-saving transplant—be it as researchers, doctors, donors, volunteers, financial supporters or other mission supporters.
“You don’t have to run into the fire to be a hero,” said Gary. “A hero is someone who does something for the betterment of humanity, simply because they are gracious, giving people.”
Giving back to give hope
After receiving his transplant, it’s become important to Gary that he demonstrates his gratitude and generosity. “When you face death and are able to come back, you have a different outlook on life. It’s a thrill to be able to help,” Gary said.
Gary and Lauren are extremely grateful to Be The Match® and their role in giving Gary the start of a new phase of life, so they have decided to become financial supporters of the mission.
In 2021 they made a significant gift to Be The Match, which helped the organization’s efforts to grow and diversify the Be The Match Registry®. While 79% of White patients are likely to find a suitable matching donor, the odds shrink to just 29% for Black and African American patients. Increasing the ethnic diversity of the registry improves the odds that all patients will find a matching donor and receive the same gift of life that Gary was given—a goal that is near and dear to the two of them.
Legacy gift to level the matching field
In 2022 Gary and Lauren committed to a generous legacy gift through their estate. Gary said they were excited to hear about the organization’s research into expanding patients’ access to donor matches by evaluating the safety and effectiveness of using mismatched unrelated donors (MMUD). MMUD could open the door to more matches, more transplants, and ultimately—more chances to save lives.
Gary says he will continue doing everything he can to support the cause and that his gratitude for Be The Match will never fade. “My devotion to Be The Match is a lifetime calling. I will be standing side by side with Be The Match for the rest of my life.”
If you’re interested in making a legacy gift by including Be The Match in your estate planning, please email Amy Bigot or call her at (763) 406-8725.