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Honoring my father

Ann Gurucharri | Tuesday, April 20, 2004

“Hidden in the tears and sorrow are the seeds of new life and growth,” reflected Vince Gurucharri, two weeks after receiving a bone marrow transplantTwo years ago, my father was diagnosed with a rare bone marrow disorder called Myelodysplastic Syndrome, more commonly known as “pre-leukemia.” A bone marrow transplant was his only chance for a cure. When he was unable to find a matching donor among his siblings, he turned to the National Marrow Donor Program Registry. Dad’s Basque-Irish-Filipino ethnicity made finding a donor especially difficult. Initially, my family was told that he had a one in a million chance of finding a donor that matched his unique genetic make-up.We were desperate. Clinging to the chance that a donor could save Dad, we got involved with the National Marrow Donor Program. My family helped plan a drive in our hometown and worked with Howard Hall to hold another at Notre Dame. Words fail me when I try to describe the impact of these drives on our family. Each new donor offered the possibility of saving my father’s life. They provided much needed hope to both my family and to our many friends whom we’d met in the hospital waiting room. I was humbled both by my reliance on others’ kindness and by the outpouring of their support.Yet nothing compared to the day we received a phone call saying that the Registry had found a donor for my father. It was nothing short of a miracle. A few weeks later, Dad underwent intense chemotherapy and radiation to wipe out his failed marrow. I had never seen my father’s body so frail. His hope in his donor’s marrow carried him through very severe treatment. For the next two years, Dad’s body endured the difficult process of adjusting to a new immune system. During this time, he was able to counsel other transplant patients, take painting lessons, stuff Christmas stockings and hug me after graduation. So many will be forever thankful for these last two years with Dad and for the lessons that he taught us in his trials about love, joy, hope and humility. Ultimately, Dad’s body was unable to handle the rigor of adjusting to a new system. He died on Dec. 9, 2003.Many transplant patients do go on to lead long, healthy lives. I hope that even the chance to give two hopeful years of life will be enough to encourage you to register. Even if you never get the chance to donate, the sole act of registering provides hope to patients and their families, an act that is nothing short of a miracle. Please register to be a bone marrow donor at the Howard Hall Bone Marrow Drive on April 22. The drive will be held on the first floor of Lafortune from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Registering to be a bone marrow donor requires only a small blood test. For more information, please visit www.nd.edu/~howard/bonemarrow.

Ann GurucharriClass of 2003April 20