A Donor’s Dream Comes True
By Judith Santiago
“I dreamed that I was a marrow donor. In my dream the walls of my recipient’s hospital room were covered with a rainbow of paper butterflies, each one carrying a message of hope and encouragement.”
This is how Cindy Klettke remembers a dream she had one night—long before it came true. A member of Lake Washington United Methodist Church in Kirkland, Wa., Klettke wanted to be a bone marrow donor since the late 1960’s. One experience especially increased her desire to become a donor—a child name Davey.
Klettke watched Davey—a 12 year-old member of her church—survive one of the first bone marrow transplants using a non-twin sibling as a donor. It was at a time before marrow transplants were “perfected” enough to be a considered a treatment option for leukemia. She watched as Davey stood firm and strong through the difficult years of chemotherapy and ill health. This courageous young child influenced Klettke’s life in a great and tangible way. She realized her purpose to give of herself for the sake of human life.
A Perfect Match
Klettke was already a regular blood donor at The Puget Sound Blood Bank in Seattle when the Bank joined efforts with the National Marrow Registry to offer free “human leukocyte antigen” or HLA typing. The HLA test helps determine protein markers in the body’s cells that help identify a person’s tissue type for bone marrow match levels. When matching a donor, blood types do not need to match. Transplant centers examine how alike the HLA tissue types of the recipient and the donor are to each other.
In 1992, four years after she registered to be a marrow donor, Klettke received a letter from the Bone Marrow Donor Program in Seattle. The letter stated that she was a suitable donor for a 17 year-old girl with leukemia—citing only a 30 to 40 percent probability of it being a successful match. Before reading any further, Klettke knew in her heart she was the perfect match despite the lesser odds. The letter marked a special moment in Klettke’s life— as it answered her heart’s desire to help people like Davey.
Klettke quickly dubbed her recipient’s name as “Hope” as patient confidentiality restricts the donor from knowing the patient’s identity. On New Year’s Eve in 1992, “Hope” received her bone marrow from Klettke at the start of a brand new year.
Symbols of Hope
The butterflies in Klettke’s dream soon became a reality. Friends, family, church members, grade school children, inmates at a local prison, and co-workers all worked diligently to create 1000 uniquely decorated paper butterflies. The butterflies—all filled with well wishes, hope and encouragement—arrived at “Hope’s” hospital room a month after the transplant was complete.
Klettke says, “My desire for “Hope” was that she would be enveloped with God’s love and actually come to know God through those butterflies.” A year after “Hope’s” transplant Klettke learned that “Hope” was really Courtney from Monroe, North Carolina. Ironically, Courtney’s family had also been praying that Klettke would come to know God through this experience.
Courtney has since graduated from high school and college, started a career, fell in love and walked down the aisle at her own storybook wedding—a milestone in Courtney’s life that would not have happened without her transplant. When asked if she would ever donate marrow again. Klettke replied, “A few days of my time is not sacrifice at all for a whole precious life,” said Klettke.
How You Can Help
Organ and Tissue Donor Sunday is on November 11. United Methodists are encouraged to observe this important day. Share this story and increase awareness by discussing the critical need for organ and tissue transplants. Help others make a decision about becoming a donor by sharing the experience of miracles and hope this contribution can bring to someone’s life.
For more information about Organ and Tissue Donor Sunday click here.