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Release: Nov. 7, 2001

NOTE TO EDITORS: The Celebrating Life Reunion will be Friday, Nov. 9 in the Main Lounge of the Iowa Memorial Union. Registration begins at 1 p.m. The welcome and opening remarks will occur at 1:30 p.m. Bryan Van Fleet and Tiffany Jennings will meet at approximately 2 p.m. The Robertson and the Lynn families will meet at approximately 2:30 p.m. For assistance in covering this event, please contact Tom Moore at (319) 356-3945.

Bone marrow, blood stem cell transplant reunion to be Nov. 9 at the IMU

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Approximately 400 patients who have received a bone marrow or blood stem cell transplant, their families and caregivers will attend the Celebrating Life Reunion on Friday, Nov. 9 at the Iowa Memorial Union.

During the celebration two patients will meet for the first time the donors who helped save their lives. Bryan Van Fleet, 24, of Knoxville, Tenn., will attend the reunion. He donated bone marrow to Tiffany Jennings, 23, of Strawberry Point, Iowa. Van Fleet is newly married, and Jennings recently became engaged. Her fiancé, Troy Helmrichs, said he wants to thank Van Fleet for saving Tiffany's life.

Nicholas Lynn, 10, of Dubuque, received a bone marrow transplant in 2000 after he was diagnosed with aplastic anemia. That transplant was unsuccessful. He then received a peripheral blood stem cell transplant in 2001, which succeeded. Kyle Robertson, administrator of Mercy Hospital Sports Medicine in Des Moines, donated both his bone marrow and peripheral blood stem cells to Nicholas. Nicholas' parents, Bob and Leigh Ann, are also registered with the National Marrow Donor Program. Leigh Ann Lynn donated bone marrow herself in 1998 to a 61 year-old woman diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia.

The Adult Blood and Marrow Transplant Unit at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics performed its first marrow transplant in 1980. Since then, approximately 1,450 people have received transplants there. The unit currently transplants more than 100 people each year.

Roger Gingrich, M.D., Ph.D., directs the transplant unit and serves as associate director for clinical affairs in the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the UI.

"As a transplant team, our goal is to restore people back to their lives," Gingrich said. "When patients come and stay with us on our Adult Blood & Marrow Transplant Unit for their transplants, we see them at their most vulnerable. At our Celebrating Life Reunion, we meet again in the arena of renewed life."

Colleen Chapleau, director of the Iowa Marrow Donor Program, added, "This event is a true celebration of the spirit. We share stories, triumphs, challenges and the beauty we find in everyday life."

People in need of a blood stem cell transplant are diagnosed with a life-threatening disease such as leukemia, lymphoma, and aplastic anemia. A blood stem cell transplant involves the use of high doses of anticancer drugs or radiation to destroy the patient’s diseased marrow and then giving the patient healthy blood stem cells as a replacement. In an autologous transplant, the patient's own blood stem cells are harvested, possibly treated, and then transplanted. In an allogeneic transplant, another person donates the healthy marrow or blood stem cells.

Each year, more than 30,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with diseases treatable by a blood stem cell transplant. Of the patients needing to receive healthy blood stem cells from someone else, only 30 percent have a suitable family match, leaving the additional 70 percent to rely on unrelated donors.

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