Bone Marrow Recipient Meets Donor In Tear-Filled Reunion

Saturday, April 2nd 2016, 6:36 pm
By: Grant Hermes

When Graham Bowen from Memphis, Texas, was diagnosed with leukemia his world stopped.

He left his job as a high-line electrician and started treatment. All the while, knowing at the age of 72, he probably wouldn't survive.

“I had resigned myself to the fact that I would probably not live through the whole deal,” he said while sitting in a waiting room at the Oklahoma Blood Institute Saturday morning.

But treatment didn't take and doctors said he would need a stem cell transplant from a bone marrow donor to send his cancer into remission. The diagnosis forced the Bowens to wait for a miracle.

Then, Graham Bowen's wife Barbara answered the phone six months later, the voice on the other end said there was a match.

“We absorbed it for a little bit and then we called our sons who have been here for us throughout everything,” Barbara Bowen said as she began to tear up next to her husband.

“I just said 'well, there's my sign so we're going to go!'” Graham Bowen said.

The match was 26-year-old Austin Patterson. He was one of 700 potential matches, the Bowens were told, but he was the only perfect match.

Patterson registered on a whim. He works as a videographer for LifeChurch in Oklahoma City and had been filming a story about another person who had received a marrow transplant. He never expected he'd be a donor himself.

Three months after a simple DNA swab on the inside of his cheek, Patterson was asked to come back for more testing and was eventually asked to be a donor. He said he never hesitated.

“It is a weird feeling to think that there's a person walking around with my DNA,” Patterson said with a laugh.

The process took several days. Patterson said his mother drove in from Texas, unsure about the procedure or why her son would give so much to someone he would never know; or so they thought.

On Saturday, Patterson and the Bowens met for the first time. The Bowens drove more than 200 miles from their home in the Texas panhandle to meet the man who gave them the gift of life.  

There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

Patterson and Graham Bowen hugged in front of a standing crowd.

“[Graham] told me that he loved me and it's like that he has another grandson or son now,” Patterson said as he held back tears. “I feel the same about him, like he's my family now.”

The Bowens were told Graham Bowen could expect another 20 years of life, despite being one of the oldest recipients of the stem cell transplant procedure. The transplant sent his cancer into full remission.