Stem cell donor, local recipient meet and find family connection
MOULTON, AL (WAFF) - Millions of people across the world donate bone marrow and stem cells, thanks in large part to "Be The Match."
The international organization takes donors, places them in a database and then tries to find a match to someone in need.
Unfortunately, it's very rare to actually find your match, but one Moulton man found his match this week and quickly learned their introduction was decades in the making.
As his son trained for cross-county in 2014, Tony Montgomery walked several miles every day.
One day he noticed something was off and had a sharp pain in his hip. He went to several doctors before getting a diagnosis that changed his life forever.
"Acute myeloid leukemia is what I had to be treated for, and it took stem cells to fix it," Tony said.
"Seeing your wife and your mother crying every day, and your kids, it's tough. Seeing them suffer more than you are. I mean, I'm in the pain and everything but mentally it's tougher on the family than anybody."
Tony's doctors were preparing him for death until the perfect match came along.
Erika Evans, who registered with Be The Match several years prior, was his match made in heaven.
"I actually kind of forgot that I was registered," Erika said.
She described the process as "noninvasive" and "pretty simple."
After Erika got the call, they ran some additional tests and went through with the procedure.
Two years later she heard that Tony Montgomery wanted to meet her.
"I got some updates that were kind of grim, but at the same time 'no news is good news,' I guess," she said.
In late 2016, they were connected. Tony in Moulton, Alabama. Erika in Buffalo, New York.
"We've face-timed and talked on the phone a little bit. We've texted. But this will be the first time we've ever met each other, and I'm looking forward to it," Tony said.
Then they met!
"I'm very thankful that God put her in our lives," Tony's wife said.
But that's not where the story ends—there's a very interesting twist!
After their connection in 2016, they discovered Erica's uncle and father grew up with the family of Tony's wife.
A new family is formed that's been generations in the making.
"He's my twin. He's my twin," Erika said.
Tony's plan moving is to get back walking. He's currently going through intense rehab to gain more muscle and mobility in his legs.
For more information on how to find a donor or to become one, visit their website.
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