A year and a half ago, doctors diagnosed Mike Bednar with multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells. He is doing much better after a bone marrow transplant at University of North Carolina Hospitals in November.
The new immune system came from his younger brother, Martial. It was not the first time for such brotherly love within the same family.
"Mike and my family often refer to me as 'donor man,'" Martial said.
Martial earned the nickname not just because he was a good match for Mike. Of his eight siblings, Martial was also the best match and bone marrow donor for his brother Merrick eight years ago. Merrick died a year later of other complications, but it may be the first time in the United States that one sibling made the same sacrifice twice.
"It clearly is an unusual event and I think that it kind of highlights the importance of doing this," said Dr. Tom Shea, UNC transplantation program director.
"This is a story of hope and this is a story of awareness, and it's just through Mike and I that we're able to illustrate that," Martial said.
Martial said his generosity is dwarfed by those who agree to be bone marrow or organ donors for strangers. Mike's transplant came through clinical trials of a new procedure that combines a stem cell transplant from the patient's own system with one from a donor.
"This effect, the so called myeloma versus tumor effect, turns out to be a very valuable and a very potent way to fight this disease," said Dr. Don Gabriel, Mike's physician.
The brothers are thankful to be able to help others at the same time they could help themselves.
"The thanks is right here. The proof is right here in seeing how well Mike is responding," Martial said.
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