FRIDAY, Feb. 11 (HealthDay News) -- A year before Jim Munroe was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of leukemia, a 19-year-old girl from Milwaukee had her cheek swabbed at a summer rock concert.
She ended up saving Munroe's life by becoming his bone marrow donor.
Munroe, 31, of Colleyville, Texas, said he started feeling sick in late November 2008. His head hurt a lot, and he began to feel very lethargic.
"I developed a really unbearable pain in my leg that they initially diagnosed as a blood clot," Munroe said. The pain kept increasing, even after Munroe started taking a blood-thinning medication, so doctors performed more tests and determined that he had leukemia.
"The bone in my leg was swelling because of the amount of white blood cells being produced in my marrow," he said. "The doctor said if it went on, the bone would break on its own."
Doctors at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Dallas recommended aggressive treatment. Munroe said he was told that he could die in three or four months if nothing was done and that, with his type of leukemia, chances of a relapse were 99 percent, even if he went into remission.
What he needed was a bone marrow transplant. "I needed to have my immune system completely replaced," Munroe said. "I needed to have it re-booted, essentially, and I needed to have someone else's healthy white blood cells to replace my own."
Munroe's doctors sent his DNA to the national bone marrow registry, hoping to find a suitable donor. They located 16 possible genetic matches for him, from 7 million people in the registry, and asked the potential donors to come in for further testing.
"With this particular transplant, they needed to find someone in the world whose DNA matched mine so perfectly that my body would recognize their immune cells as being O.K.," he said.
One of the donors matched perfectly. "They found out she was
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