Medical Service
Stem cell donation

The transcontinental lifesaver with cobalt blue beret

The transcontinental lifesaver with cobalt blue beret

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In 2017, during his basic training, senior officer cadet Dominik K. registered with the Stefan Morsch Foundation as a possible donor of stem cells: A decision with far-reaching consequences. Three years ago, the call suddenly came – and he was given the opportunity to save a life in the United States.

A soldier in field dress sits on a Bundeswehr truck between driver's cab and trailer.

Before taking up his studies, senior officer cadet Dominik K. supported in the basic training at 2 Medical Regiment in Rennerod

Bundeswehr/Marcel Bockisch-Ernst

It is a rainy Wednesday in the Westerwald, almost characteristic of Rennerod. 25-year-old Dominik, a line officer candidate in the Bundeswehr Medical Service, steps out of a company building and greets with a friendly smile. His story is unusual, a stroke of luck with a clear message: "Don't be afraid of the intervention – it can be so easy to save a life", emphasizes the prospective economist.

Another freshman in the register

The 25-year-old registered during blood typing in his basic training. The Stefan Morsch Foundation approached the soldiers directly – it only takes another blood collection tube, quite simply. K., who originates from Hagen, did not hesitate for long and agreed immediately. After about six to twelve months, the unexpected call came: A potential recipient from the USA, about the same age, might be compatible. Here, too, the officer candidate acted immediately and confirmed the further appointments.

Don't be afraid of the intervention

"The procedure of apheresis is as follows: First, you are invited to the foundation in Birkenfeld in Rhineland-Palatinate, and then various investigations are conducted. As soon as these have been completed, you will have injections, no larger than insulin injections," the senior officer cadet reports. The injections were administered twice a day to stimulate stem cell production in the spleen – a completely safe method. Subsequently, a second visit was made to the Stefan Morsch Foundation, this time for the filtration and purification of the blood and the collection of stem cells.

For this purpose, the 25-year-old was connected to a kind of dialysis machine for three hours. After that, the bag containing the stem cells was ready for transport to the USA. "People often still think of invasive bone marrow harvesting, a high-risk procedure. Today, however, medicine is much further advanced, the blood is extracted directly from the blood system. I almost didn't even feel the puncture," emphasizes Dominik K.

A soldier - from Germany?

A woman sits in a meeting room and a cameraman films her with a video camera.

The story made a great stir in the United States. Madelyn W., too, gave a number of interviews

private/ Madelyn W.

For Madelyn W., the recipient of K.'s donation, the time during treatment was full of hope, but also demanding. The outcome and success of such a procedure can never be predicted with certainty. Further questions remained open during treatment, especially regarding actual compatibility. "How can it be that a stranger, a man from Germany is compatible with me, a woman from a small city in America?" Madelyn W. wondered in a video message. "When I learned that Dominik is a soldier, this gave me a feeling of security," the young woman adds.

University of Arkansas for Medical Science

Entrance to a large building with a window front.

The University of Arkansas for Medical Science is a state-of-the-art facility and a promising point of contact for cancer patients

private/ Dominik K.

After each donation, there is a two-year protection period. Only about 50 percent of the donations are successful. Accordingly, contact between donors and recipients is prevented just in case. Fortunately, the outcome was positive in this case, and this year in August the time for a meeting had finally come. Dominik K. visited the University of Arkansas for Medical Science in the USUnited States state of Arkansas. The facility in Little Rock is one of the largest and most modern cancer treatment centres in the country. "I had the pleasure of talking to Muthu K. Veeraputhiran, M.D., the Director of Stem Cell Transplantation and Cellular Therapy, who also treated Madelyn W.," the officer candidate says.  

Hello Madelyn

A woman with brown hair and a blond man smile into the camera. In the background there are larger buildings.

In August 2022, there was an emotional meeting of the donor and recipient in the United States

private /Dominik K.

Moreover, the long-awaited meeting of the two finally took place. "Contact was established in April this year. The talks on the past two years and on how she is doing today have gone so well that I decided to meet her personally during my summer holiday," Dominik K. says with a happy smile. In Bismarck, Arkansas, he then met Madelyn W. and her family. "You always know that you have done something good, but words cannot describe the gratitude on-site," the prospective student continues.

An unknown donation relationship has developed into a genuine friendship that extends across two continents. The two are constantly exchanging views via social media and are already planning further meetings.

by Marcel Bockisch-Ernst