Leukemia survivor meets the bone marrow donor who saved her life

Article Image

Three years after receiving an anonymous bone marrow transplant, Beth Wilson finally met the woman who saved her life

Posted: Mar 24, 2019 5:10 PM
Updated: Mar 24, 2019 5:10 PM

To the travelers at the train station in Cologne, Germany, they probably seemed like two old friends embracing after a long time apart. But it was actually a long-awaited meeting between strangers -- a two-time cancer survivor finally seeing the bone marrow donor who saved her life.

Beth Wilson, 36, an intensive care nurse, was diagnosed 10 years ago with adenocarcinoma in her small intestine. She went through six months of chemotherapy and beat the cancer, but was then diagnosed with leukemia, one of the risks of chemo. Wilson said she believes the chemo was the likely cause.

Wilson then sought treatment at Atlanta's Northside Hospital, where doctors suggested a bone marrow transplant as the best way to treat her leukemia. Since Wilson does not have any siblings, and her parents were only a 50% match, she was put on the donor list. Doctors warned that it could take years before a match was found -- but not only did Wilson end up with two potential donors, but they were both 100% matches, which is extremely rare.

A German university student was a match

Alina Theine, 24, was one of those matches. The resident of Cologne, Germany, had registered as a stem cell donor as part of a registry drive at her university. She said she thought the chances of being matched were slim.

The organization that ran the registry drive, DKMS, matches bone marrow donors with recipients all over the world. About six months after registering, Theine was matched with Wilson through the Be the Match Registry.

Theine agreed to donate, even though doctors needed her supply directly from the marrow, the more difficult of donation options. She also agreed to be contacted by her recipient once a two-year required waiting period was up.

'What do you say to the woman who saved your life?'

Wilson had the transplant in January 2016. After much difficulty -- Wilson had to undergo several rounds of therapy before the marrow accepted her body -- it was a success.

Two years later, Wilson decided to contact the donor. She got in touch with DKMS, which gave her Theine's name and email address.

"I waited a day or two, because even after two years, what do you say to the woman who saved your life?" Wilson said.

Within those two days, Wilson said, Theine also contacted DKMS to ask whether she could contact her recipient. The two women connected through social media, both agreeing that eventually, at some point, they would meet.

'A trip of a lifetime'

Wilson's husband, Robert, was the one who made the meeting happen. For Beth's birthday in October 2018, he surprised his wife with a trip to Germany to meet Theine. He had already contacted Theine and asked her to send a video telling his wife the news.

"I thought, no, there's a language barrier she didn't understand, (because) he didn't buy airline tickets," Wilson said, but when she realized the trip was real she broke down in tears.

"My husband saw I was crying and said, 'Are those happy tears?' and I said 'YES!'"

DKMS arranged for the women to meet at the train station in Cologne on March 14, 2019. The emotional connection between them was immediate.

"She ran up to me and she was crying and shaking," Wilson said. "It was so sweet."

Wilson and her husband spent a week in the country getting to know Theine's family and culture.

"It was incredible. It was a trip of a lifetime," Wilson said.

Asked why someone should become a bone marrow or stem cell donor, she said, "It's such a small thing you can do to save someone's life."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 26980

Reported Deaths: 1159
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin9099657
Ramsey3351149
Stearns205614
Nobles15775
Anoka152779
Dakota144664
Washington70035
Olmsted68911
Rice5243
Kandiyohi5141
Scott4712
Clay44930
Mower4462
Wright3492
Todd3441
Sherburne2492
Carver2402
Benton1853
Steele1700
Freeborn1590
Blue Earth1490
Martin1355
St. Louis11914
Lyon1012
Unassigned9611
Pine930
Nicollet8811
Cottonwood820
Winona8115
Crow Wing815
Watonwan790
Carlton750
Goodhue736
Otter Tail731
Chisago691
Polk632
Itasca5610
Dodge540
Chippewa521
Morrison480
Le Sueur471
Douglas460
Meeker460
Becker440
Jackson420
Murray410
McLeod410
Isanti360
Pennington300
Waseca290
Mille Lacs241
Rock230
Faribault220
Wabasha200
Swift191
Beltrami180
Sibley170
Brown172
Fillmore171
Norman150
Pipestone130
Kanabec121
Aitkin120
Marshall120
Cass112
Big Stone110
Wilkin113
Wadena100
Pope100
Koochiching90
Redwood70
Yellow Medicine70
Renville70
Mahnomen61
Lincoln60
Red Lake40
Traverse40
Grant40
Clearwater30
Houston30
Hubbard30
Lac qui Parle30
Roseau30
Stevens10
Lake10
Kittson10

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 21114

Reported Deaths: 593
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk4614140
Woodbury286137
Black Hawk178849
Buena Vista10672
Linn97879
Dallas95226
Marshall91418
Wapello63615
Johnson6198
Muscatine56741
Crawford5512
Tama41129
Scott38510
Dubuque35921
Louisa35011
Pottawattamie31910
Sioux3060
Jasper26917
Wright2210
Washington1968
Warren1671
Plymouth1522
Story1311
Allamakee1204
Mahaska9913
Poweshiek928
Hamilton760
Webster741
Henry732
Boone720
Bremer716
Clarke690
Des Moines681
Taylor660
Clinton651
Guthrie553
Cedar501
Benton431
Cherokee410
Monroe415
Jones370
Shelby370
Osceola360
Jefferson360
Marion350
Dickinson350
Buchanan341
Iowa340
Clayton343
Cerro Gordo331
Madison292
Lee290
Sac280
Davis280
Emmet270
Fayette270
Clay270
Monona260
Harrison260
Hardin240
Lyon240
Winneshiek240
Lucas222
Mills200
Grundy200
Franklin200
Humboldt201
Pocahontas200
Delaware191
Floyd191
Hancock180
Appanoose173
Butler161
Kossuth160
Carroll151
Ida150
Greene150
Keokuk140
Jackson140
Page140
Audubon131
Cass130
Chickasaw130
Howard120
Winnebago110
Calhoun100
Union100
Van Buren90
Adair90
Montgomery92
Adams70
Palo Alto70
Ringgold40
Fremont40
Mitchell40
Worth30
Unassigned20
Wayne10
Decatur10
Rochester
Few Clouds
72° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 72°
Mason City
Clear
80° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 80°
Albert Lea
Broken Clouds
75° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 75°
Austin
Overcast
75° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 75°
Charles City
Overcast
79° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 79°
Weekend looks nice
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Sean Weather 6/6

Image

Chris' PM Weather Forecast 6/5

Image

Gyms, fitness centers set to reopen

Image

Easing restrictions for MN restaurants and gyms

Image

Charles City vigil for George Floyd

Image

Hawkeye Harvest Foodbank partnership

Image

Next phase of Minnesota reopening

Image

Rental Assistance program for Rochester

Image

IA Care Homes Could Reopen to Visitors

Image

'Color Me Mine' Location Closes for Good

Community Events