Like most boys in middle school, sports were my passion. I played baseball, basketball, football, ran cross-country and enjoyed pretty much anything where I was active. When I was in the seventh grade, I began to experience knee pain – but as most teenage boys would be told, it was shrugged off as just growing pains. As the years passed, the pain continued to get worse and finally my parents took me to the doctor where they did an x-ray of my knee. At first it appeared that nothing was wrong, but thankfully my doctor delved deeper. Little did I know, my world would be turned upside down.
I had just turned 15-years-old, in March of 1996, when I was diagnosed with bone cancer in my leg. My parents and I were told the particular type of cancer I had, chondrosarcoma, does not respond to chemotherapy and the most common treatment is amputation. This was devastating news. To say that we were stunned was an understatement. This would have meant as a 15-year-old athletic young man, my left leg would have been amputated at the hip. My life would never be the same. It is pretty rare that this cancer is contained within the femur but I was told that my tumor was contained. Because of that silver lining, my doctors recommended a brand new procedure.
They suggested that the six-inch portion of my femur containing the tumor be taken out and replaced with donor bone. I underwent three surgeries, including a 12-hour procedure, and then spent about a year on crutches. Today, after a total of six surgeries on my leg, including one in 2011 where I received a second amazing gift of donor bone, I am still walking and enjoying life. And, unfortunately while playing certain sports is no longer an option, I still have my leg!
I took part in the 2016 Transplant Games of America, playing Texas Hold ‘em poker, bowling and golf, thanks to the generosity of my donor. It was an awesome experience, meeting people from across the country who have been touched by organ, eye and tissue donation.
I am thankful to all of the doctors that helped drastically change my life. But I am most thankful to my two bone donors – I was incredibly lucky to have had the option of using donor bone to save my leg – and my life as I know it. Won’t you say “yes” to organ, eye and tissue donation?