Stem cells offer gift of life

Courtny Gerrish, Stephanie Graham

Stem cells offer gift of life

CREATED Apr. 17, 2012 - UPDATED: Apr. 17, 2012

MILWAUKEE- The prognosis was pretty grim for a young Milwaukee man, then, a special donation gave him a second chance at life.

Tony Baker was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in December of 2009.

"I think I was really shocked to be honest," Tony recalls.

His wife Julie couldn't believe this was happening to her young, vibrant, husband. "When you get that news you just start thinking, oh my God, you think the worst."

Doctors decided to do an auto transplant on Tony--using Tony's own stem cells. It didn't work, so doctors, including Dr.Parameswaran Hari at Froedtert & the Medical College,decided to take a more aggressive approach. "We realized that patients who get a transplant from another person can get cured," Dr. Hari explains.

Donor stem cells. It can be risky, as the body sometimes rejects the cells, but the team at Froedtert is very experienced in transplant technology. Dr. Hari adds, "We're doing outpatient transplants because our technology is getting more and more targeted."

Thanks to the Be The Match program, doctors found a donor for Tony, who is now in remission, and back to work at Harley Davidson.

"We have a new lease on life," Julie says.

And a new goal, to build donor awareness.

Tony's battle inspired friends like his co-worker Dan Major to join the donor registry.

"It can help make the world a smaller place, people find eachother that can help one another," Tony explains.

Help one another get back to a normal life.

"It's really just as simple as giving blood," Tony says.