Dad of young cancer patient helps save another life

December 21, 2011 8:11:45 PM PST
Two years ago, a two-year-old was diagnosed with brain cancer. Her family's love supported her through the difficult years of experimental treatments. Now, she's in remission.

But recently, the family got a call from out of the blue, and her father was offered the chance to save someone else's life.

Four-year old Ava Klein loves feeding the giraffes. Trips to the zoo with her sister and brother are special days.

For the past two years, this has been Ava's life: in the hospital taking experimental treatments for brain cancer. The treatments are working and now Ava is doing well. She started school and can go on outings just like any other four-year-old.

The same time that Ava got her clear brain scan, her father received a call that he could save the life of another cancer patient by donating his stem cells.

"I was very excited. It's an opportunity to actually save somebody's life," Randy Klein said.

His wife, Lisa, looks at it as their way to give back.

"We are so thankful for everyone who helped us and all the doctors at M.D. Anderson and Texas Children's Hospital that were there for Ava. And it was just amazing that Randy now has this opportunity to go and save a life as well," Lisa said.

It started with a decision he made before Ava was even born. Randy, who works at Channel 13, signed up in our ABC-13 "Be the Match" drive in 2004.

Randy's one of almost 1,000 people who signed up to be donors at our two drives. He's the sixth match, and their donations went to save people from the ages of five to 67.

Randy and Lisa had seen how stem cells helped Ava. She was able to use her own stem cells but many cancer patients are not and need donated cells.

Randy got a series of shots to build up his cells before giving the donation, which is done through veins in the arms. Very few donations anymore are with bone marrow.

"I think for years people have thought bone marrow involved going through the hip and was painful process and painful recovery. But this is nothing. It's like giving blood," Randy said.

So he spent the morning working on his iPad as they collected his stem cells and it was done.

"It's so unexpected that he had the opportunity to get to do this," Lisa said.

And their hope is that next Christmas, Ava will get to meet the man her father helped save.

The test to "Be the Match" today is so easy; it's a Q-tip swab from your mouth. If you'd like to be able to save a life, visit the National Marrow Donor Program.


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