Bone marrow donor would do it again
KINGMAN - Nausea and dry heaves lasting several hours are not something to look forward to.
But Judy Padilla would put up with those symptoms again to help prolong the life of someone with leukemia.
She went through the experience as a bone marrow donor for a 61-year-old Oregon man on March 23, 2007.
"They do make you aware of nausea and things like that, but say it also is rare," Padilla said. "However, I don't handle it well.
"I was nauseated the whole time and throwing up. But that's nothing compared to what the (marrow recipient) is going through, and I'd do it again in a heart beat."
Padilla, a special education assistant at Manzanita Elementary School, was touched six years ago, when a childhood friend said her husband was diagnosed with acute lymphoma leukemia.
Padilla and Cherie Smith, her sister, organized a bone marrow drive at their church and a number of people showed up to be tested as prospective donors for Roger Esquerra. However, he died before a suitable donor could be found.
Padilla and Smith both were tested and went into the National Bone Marrow Program as donors, Smith stated in an e-mail.
In early 2007, the sisters were notified they are an exact marrow match (seven out of eight markers) for the Oregon man. They completed questionnaires and submitted them.
Smith was chosen as the donor. She went to Good Samaritan Hospital in Phoenix for additional tests, one of which revealed a higher-than-normal white cell count. That indicated a possible infection and she was sent back to Kingman for more tests that verified the high white cell count. She then was removed as a possible donor.
Padilla, 42, then was asked to go to Phoenix for similar testing as a prospective donor. No problems were found, Padilla said.
"The procedure took 8-12 hours," she said. "Putting a catheter in my jugular vain took up an hour, and marrow removal lasted 6-7 hours.
"When extraction was complete about 7:30 p.m., I was exhausted from dry heaving and could not get out of bed, so I used a bedpan. A headache made me nauseated and I finally was able to leave the hospital at 2 a.m. the next morning."
She feels wonderful both mentally and physically now. In addition, she has lost 35 pounds through dieting and is in the best shape of her life, Padilla said.
Padilla and Smith learned another sister, Virginia Gallagher, 41, of Spearfish, S.D., was diagnosed with leukemia prior to Padilla going to Phoenix for testing and the procedure.
She was asked if that made her re-consider being a donor for a stranger, so she could be ready to aid Gallagher.
"Not at all," Padilla said. "I'll do it for her, too, if necessary.
"Virginia has a chronic type of leukemia, which is slower growing and not terminal."
Smith refers to Padilla as "My sister, the hero."
Padilla only knows of the inner feeling she now carries.
"It was such an honor to be a donor," Padilla said. "You give, but the spiritual growth you get in return is as great to me as saving the life of the recipient."
Padilla and Smith plan a bone marrow drive in the fall at Kingman Church of Christ on Robinson Avenue.
Anyone wishing to learn more on becoming a donor may go to the Web site of the National Bone Marrow Program at www.marrow.org.