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University of Iowa News Release

Nov. 10, 2004

Participants To 'Celebrate Life' At Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion

Approximately 400 patients who have received a bone marrow or blood stem cell transplant, their families and caregivers will attend the Seventh Annual Celebrating Life Reunion from 1 to 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 12 at the Quality Inn & Suites at 2525 North Dodge St. in Iowa City. A highlight of the celebration will occur when a transplant patient and the marrow donor who helped save his life meet for the first time.

The Adult Blood and Marrow Transplant Unit at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and the Iowa Marrow Donor Program are sponsoring the reunion. Specialists at UI Hospitals and Clinics performed the first marrow transplant in 1980. Since then, more than 1,700 people have received transplants there. The unit currently transplants more than 75 people each year.

Roger Gingrich, M.D., Ph.D., UI professor of internal medicine, directs the transplant unit and serves as associate director for clinical affairs in 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 Reardon Chapleau, director of the Iowa Marrow Donor Program, added, "This event is a true celebration of the spirit. We share stories, triumphs and challenges. What stands out each year is the message of hope embodied in the courageous people who have fought cancer and who now give back to help others. The simple acts of human kindness are inspiring."

During the reunion, Tom Kurt, 52, of Ames, Iowa, will meet his donor, 35-year old Jim Gardner of Unionville, Conn. Kurt was diagnosed with Myelodysplastic syndrome in December 2002. He received his new, life-saving marrow on March 13, 2003.

Gardner joined the National Bone Marrow Donor Program in 1998. He agreed to participate in additional testing in January 2003, which led to his match with Kurt. Both men say they are thrilled with the opportunity to meet each other face to face.

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 allogenic 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.

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide. Visit UI Health Care online at

NOTE TO EDITORS: Registration begins at 1 p.m. Nov. 12. The welcome and opening remarks will occur at 1:30 p.m. Kurt will meet his donor at approximately 2:30 p.m. For assistance in covering this event, please contact Tom Moore by calling 319-356-3945.

STORY SOURCE: Joint Office for Marketing and Communications, University of Iowa Health Care, 200 Hawkins Drive, Room E110 GH, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1009.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Moore, 319-356-3945,