Our HeroesThose that inspire us everyday
Our Hero - Marj
Donor Since 1992
For Marj Sullivan, the decision to become a bone marrow donor was personal and one born of friendship and compassion.
A few years after graduating high school, one of Marj’s best friends was awaiting a life-saving bone marrow transplant and at the last minute, the donor changed his/her mind. Marj’s friend died soon after. A few years later, Marj signed up for the registry, hoping that one day she would be able to save someone’s life.
Matching up patients with donors can take months or even years. But six years later, in the summer of 1998, Marj received a call that she’d been matched with a 5-year-old boy. Further testing proved she was a perfect match, an extremely rare occurrence in people who are not related.
In 1992, the year Marj agreed to be a donor; there were three million volunteers on the bone-marrow registry. Since then, the national registry has grown significantly. Today it is more than 9 million and the need for donors is as great today as it was back then.
On Sept. 16, 1998, Marj had her marrow extracted from her hip bone in a Boston hospital. That same day, the marrow was flown to Wisconsin Children’s Hospital in Milwaukee and transplanted into an unnamed little boy. And while Marj did the more painful bone barrow donation via her hip, today, 70% of the time stem cells can be collected via peripheral blood, so it is less invasive and easier on the donor.
Exactly one year later, Marj received a phone call. The woman on the other end of the line was Melanie Goldish, the grateful Mom of Travis, the previously unnamed recipient who was now 6 years old. And Melanie asked Marj to fly to Chicago to meet him.
“I can’t begin to describe the absolute wave of emotion that hit me during her first telephone conversation with Marj,” Melanie said. “That she could be with Travis and our family to celebrate the one-year anniversary since the bone-marrow transplant…we were absolutely overjoyed at the thought.”
When Marj donated her bone marrow, she sent it along with a stuffed teddy bear which she later learned Travis had named “Marrow the Bear O”. And when she exited the plane in Chicago to the cheers of friends and family holding “hero” signs, there was Travis, holding the bear.
Marj doesn’t see herself as a hero, but rather someone who happened to be in the right place at the right time. She believes there is a reason for everything and this was meant to be.
Marj said she’s living proof that one person can make a difference. “If there’s any gift I could be given,” Marj said, “It’s just to see him grow up and be healthy. That’s what I want to see.”
Marj got her gift – Travis is a freshman in college this year and moving on to his sophomore year.
You are our hero. May God bless you, Marj.