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'Without you, I wouldn't be here:' Benson woman meets life-saving donor

Posted July 19

— Tear-filled reunions are commonplace at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, but it's not often that two people who have never met embrace in the terminal waiting area. 

That changed Saturday morning, when Karen Roundtree, a 35-year-old from Benson, met Latiesa Kirkpatrick, an Ohio woman whose bone marrow donation helped save Roundtree's life.

"Thank you so much. Thank you so much," Roundtree said Saturday as she hugged Kirkpatrick in the terminal.

In 2006, Roundtree was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a condition that occurs when a person's body stops producing enough new blood cells. It results in fatigue and leads to a higher risk of infections and uncontrolled bleeding. Doctors told her she would need a bone marrow transplant to survive. 

By 2008, Roundtree was also battling leukemia, and the radiation and chemotherapy treatments had sapped all her strength. 

Enter Kirkpatrick, an unlikely hero who lived more than 500 miles away. 

Kirkpatrick signed up as a bone marrow donor as a senior at the University of Cincinnati in 2006, never thinking she would get a call.

"I was scared to death to donate blood. I'm afraid of needles and they all rooted me on," Kirkpatrick said of the sorority sisters who convinced her to sign up. "I said, 'OK, I'll do it.' Never thinking I'd get called. 

Two years later, Kirkpatrick did get that call. Kirkpatrick said Saturday that the ability to donate bone marrow and save a life was one of the most meaningful and powerful things she's ever done. 

In their first face-to-face meeting, Roundtree confirmed just that. 

"Without you, I wouldn't be here. You did it. You did it for me," she told Kirkpatrick. 

Roundtree's 15-year-old son said he's thankful for Kirkpatrick's decision. 

"I'm grateful, and I don't take it for granted," Jaquan Covington said. "I thank God for putting it in her heart to donate, because I mean it's kind of hard to operate in life without your mom."

Roundtree, who says she's feeling great, was overcome with emotion. 

"It's a very emotional, special day for me," she said. "I've been so excited. I'm happy. I'm just happy."

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  • carrboroyouth Jul 21, 1:49 p.m.

    Everyone go to Be the Match dot com and learn how you can join the bone marrow registry. It's easy ... no blood testing, just a few swabs in your mouth with a q-tip to collect cells and test them.

  • 678devilish Jul 21, 12:32 p.m.

    God bless both of them especially the young lady that gave a donation of bone marrow. May both be blessed in life.

  • SirWired Jul 21, 10:10 a.m.

    Bone marrow donation is usually MUCH easier than it used to be! It used to involve you being put under general anesthesia and having your hip bone being stuck like a pincushion while the marrow was directly removed with fat needles.

    Now, for most cases, you take a drug that causes your marrow to go into overdrive for a couple of weeks, you get hooked up to a machine via IV for a couple of hours while you watch a movie, and you go home.