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'It takes a village to get through this': Pediatric leukemia survivor meets college bone marrow donor

"A really tiny investment of your time can change the trajectory of not only the patient's life, but your life too."
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Posted at 1:21 AM, Sep 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-04 01:21:48-04

MARSHALL COUNTY / MASSACHUSETTS — It was a first time meet up that seemed more like a reunion. In August, the Parry family traveled from Marshall County, Indiana to a minor league baseball stadium just outside of Boston.

The point of the trip was not to see a baseball game, but instead to meet a recent college graduate and her family.

"It takes a village to get through this," Kaylie Parry said, who is mom to three boys: Jackson, 5, and twins Jacob and Jared, 3.

Part of the Parry family's "village" is a recent college graduate named Rachel Buck.

The 23-year-old is Jacob Parry's match.

In 2019, the then college senior received a call while on the bone marrow registry.

"There's really not many other things that you can say," Buck said. "I took one day out of my life to give someone back their entire life."

Around the world, there are nearly 40 million people who are on the Be The Match registry, which is a list of bone marrow or cord blood donors.

Buck happened to be Jacob's perfect match when he needed a stem cell transplant.

"We're just so grateful," Parry said. "We're just so grateful because without Rachel, our lives would look very differently."

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It started with a rash. At just over a year old, Jacob was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia. After failed rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, the toddler needed a stem cell transplant.

"You're putting your child's life in literally someone else's hands," Parry said.

Buck, a cheerleader at the University of New Haven, signed up for the bone marrow registry on a whim at a football game in 2016. She explained how she got a call that she was a match while standing in a casino lobby in 2019, days before she graduated college.

That September, she donated.

Buck knows now she made it on the donor list before Jacob Parry was even born.

"It was almost like I was waiting for my moment. Like, put me in coach, I'm ready!" Buck said cheerfully.

On Sept. 20, 2019, Jacob received his stem cell transplant. It took months of fighting through complications post-transplant, but he eventually went home.

After a transplant, donors and recipients cannot meet for at least a year. In Oct. 2020, the two families started sharing their lives with each other from a distance before meeting up in-person almost a year later.

Buck says this story isn't about her, it's about Jacob Parry.

"I just showed up," Buck said. "I didn't put any work into it. He saved his own life. I was just right place, right time."

Jacob and his brothers will serving as Buck's ring bearers when she gets married in 2023.

World Bone Marrow Day is Sept.18. Jacob will celebrate two years since his transplant on Sept. 20.

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