Rochester, N.Y. - Adam McFadden calls Lamar Adams his “blood son.”
“We just have a bond that will never be broken,” he explains.
McFadden didn’t give the teenager life, but his stem cells did save the life cancer threatened to take away. Lamar talks about it in a video on Youtube.
“I was thinking the worst- that I might die,” Adams says.
“Not only did he have Leukemia, but they said he probably had only six months to live,” recalls McFadden.
McFadden recalls the story on the same day that Robin Roberts, co-host of ABC’s Good Morning America, announced she will undergo a bone marrow transplant. Robin Roberts says her treatment for breast cancer has led to a condition that has left her with a form of Leukemia called MDS.
Mylelodysplastic Syndrome is a case where the bone marrow produces enough cells but they are too fragile to work properly. Some of the top research in the country on MDS is being done at the University of Rochester Medical Center by a team lead by Dr. John Bennett.
“The drugs we use, although they destroy cancer cells, some of them damage the bone marrow called the stem cell,” says Dr. Bennett.
“About one to two percent of people who get these cancer treatments and are cured because they get them will develop a secondary MDS,” explains Dr. Bennett. “Looking at it from the other side that means 95 to 98 percent never get this.”
Robin Roberts announced today her sister is a perfect marrow match and will be the donor. Yet only one in four people needing marrow or stem cell transplants will have a family member who is also a good match.
For African-Americans – the chances of finding a match from a donor registry are slim. Only eight out of 100 people who join these registries are African-American. “It’s a very special population of folks because we are not compatible with people from Africa or black people from many other countries,” explains Councilman Adam McFadden.
McFadden says in 2004 – he received a startling phone call. Five years earlier he had joined a donor registry – hoping to help the child of a friend who had been diagnosed with Leukemia. He wasn’t a match.
“I actually forgot I was on the registry,” he says about the call. “At that point I knew I was this kid’s only option and signed up to do it.”
McFadden says a simple cheek swab is all it takes to get on a registry, yet most people don’t know that. He has sponsored drives in Rochester to educate minorities and get them to sign on.
“Most people don’t see it as being something important until it’s them that is in need of a donor or someone in their family,” he explains.
In 2005 he traveled to Chicago to meet the young man who was his perfect bone marrow match. The two hit it off and see each other often, spending holidays together. ”He really is family,” says McFadden.
The two have collaborated on a Youtube video to encourage minorities to joins registries such as “Be the Match.” (www.marrow.org)
“I’m shocked that I’m still here,” says Lamar. “Adam McFadden saved my life.”
“You think about what you would do for your own children – what you would want someone else to do – so it was easy to come to that decision,” says McFadden.