Two strangers share the 'gift of life'

February 12, 2010 8:46:52 PM PST
It was a chance to say thank you tonight in Houston. One man's promise ended up saving another's life and we were there when it happened. Bone marrow transplants are called the 'gift of life.' Every year some 10,000 people in this country are diagnosed with an illness that requires one. Seventy percent of them will find their match from a complete stranger.

In 2001, Martin Jackson of League City agreed to become a bone marrow donor. It would be years before he would realize the significance of his decision to do so.

"All they told me was that there was a 24-year-old male and without my help, he would pass away," said Jackson.

That someone was a stranger living more than a thousand miles away. Angel Rivera, now 26, a father from Ohio, had been battling leukemia for three years and desperately needed a bone marrow transplant. The prognosis was not good and even when doctors told him they found a match, there were no guarantees.

"It was just really scary. I really didn't have a good chance. There was a 28 percent chance of it working," said Rivera.

Rivera beat the odds and is now cancer free. He and his family travelled all the way from home to meet Jackson and to say thanks. For both men, the moments leading up to their big encounter were nerve-wracking to say the least.

"I'm anxious. I'm a little nervous. I don't know what to say to him," said Jackson.

Rivera said, "I'm anxious. I am nervous. I've been waiting for this moment a long time."

They couldn't think of a more appropriate place to meet for the first time than the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center's Marrow Donor Program's annual fundraiser.

Finally, the moment almost two years in the making happened. It was everything they had hoped for and more. If a picture was worth a thousand words, this one says it all. Two men who were once strangers are now more like family.

On a side note, Jackson underwent the bone marrow procedure just four days after Hurricane Ike. The Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center typically holds these donor meetings twice a year.