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Meet transplant recipient Kimberly Christensen

Kim was an active, energetic, high school student who loved sports—especially volleyball and badminton. Until one day, Kim began to feel fatigued in PE class. Day after day, it got worse. She started experience intense leg pain and simply climbing the stairs became a challenge. A trip to her doctor and blood tests revealed acute, lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). She needed a marrow transplant right away. With no matching donor in her family, Kim’s doctors turned to Be The Match.

Kim was lucky, finding two well-matched, unrelated donors, one man and one woman within a matter of weeks. Her doctors chose the man as the best possible donor.

Kim received her marrow transplant in Oct. 2009, and was able to return home just a month later.

Kim struggled with some graft-versus-host disease of the skin, and goes to physical therapy for stiffness of the joints, but is otherwise doing well in her recovery.

For her 18th birthday, her family and friends arranged a very special surprise. They went to dinner at a fancy restaurant they’d always wanted to try, and Kim’s dad suggested she call her donor, and put it on speaker phone so they could all say hi and thank him. Little did Kim realize that her donor, Jeff, had flown into town to attend her party and meet her for the first time–in fact, he was sitting at the table behind her when she called! Kim freaked out with joy.

Now, they correspond regularly, and Jeff thinks of Kim as a kind of adopted daughter.

Last July, Kim and Jeff both traveled to Capitol Hill for Legislative Day, joining Be The Match representatives and advocates to meet with federal legislators and urge them to continue vital congressional funding for the organization.

Jeff and Kim Walk Run

Meet marrow donor Jeff Haertling

Jeff Haertling had a certain person in mind when he joined the Be The Match Registry® in the fall of 2007. The daughter of a friend had been diagnosed with leukemia. Jeff hoped to be the matching donor who could save the girl’s life. But in the end, no match could be found for his friend’s daughter, and she passed away in 2008.

In 2009, Jeff got another chance to save someone’s life—this time, a stranger’s. It started with an unexpected call from the registry: Jeff was a perfect match for a 16-year-old girl battling acute lymphocytic leukemia. She desperately needed his marrow.

Jeff didn’t hesitate. He donated his marrow on Oct. 20, 2009 to save Kim Christensen’s life. On her 18th birthday, Jeff finally got to meet his “mini me” and Kim finally got to meet her “parts department.”

“Aside from having kids, this has been the most important and rewarding thing I’ve done in life,” Jeff said.

He’s since become a passionate advocate for Be The Match, contributing to nearly every aspect of the organization. He is a volunteer Be The Match courier, helping to safely transport potentially life-saving cells from the donor’s location to the recipient’s location. He is also co-chair of the St. Louis Be The Match Walk+Run, and a member of the Consumer Advocacy Committee for CIBMTR® (Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research®), a research program of Be The Match. Additionally, Jeff regularly hosts donor registry drives in the St. Louis area.

Last July, Jeff traveled to Capitol Hill with Kim and Be The Match representatives and advocates. There, they met with federal legislators and urged them to continue vital congressional funding for the organization.

“Being able to save someone else’s life has dramatically changed my life as well,” Jeff said. “Today, my goal is to spread the word about Be The Match, so more people can beat blood cancer and thrive like Kim.”