DURHAM -- A Raleigh cancer survivor met the donor who saved his life on Saturday. They shared the moment with hundreds of other blood and bone marrow transplant survivors from across the state and country who were treated at Duke University Hospital.
"My donor, who is the superman. I don't have words to express my gratitude," David Kaufman, a bone marrow recipient, told the crowd of nearly 200 other survivors and their loved ones during Duke Hospital's 15th bone marrow and blood transplant patient reunion. "He went out of his way to save a complete stranger."
Mark Cowen is the reason Kaufman is still alive today.
"He called me his superman. I can only imagine what he went through,” reflected Cowen.
Kaufman was diagnosed with leukemia in 2011 and later discovered Cowan, who is from Virginia, was a perfect match for the transplant he needed to survive.
"As unlucky as it was for me to come down with a childhood leukemia that almost nobody gets, I equally won the lottery finding a one in a 10 million chance of a match like that," said Kaufman.
According to the National Donor Marrow Program, about 25,000 bone marrow, peripheral blood stem cell or cord blood transplants are performed each year and about 5,200 patients receive transplants from unrelated donors.
"You have to have a disease that if nothing else is done will likely take these people's lives, so that's when we step in and try and help them with the stem cell transplantation," said Dr. Mitchell Horwitz, with Duke Adult Stem Cell Transplant Program.
Cowen urged other to give the gift that makes all the difference.
"To be able to help someone, spend another day, another month, hopefully decades with their family and to share in their successes and milestones just fills me with a great deal of joy," said Cowen.
The gift leaves Kaufman feeling like he has super powers that give him a new appreciation for life.
"I just want to say thank you.”
Duke Hospital performs about 290 adult bone marrow transplants a year and about half of those transplants require a healthy donor.
If you'd like to find out more about donating visit the National Donor Marrow Program.