“Do they get credit for this?”
“No, but they’re getting out of class.”
At 12:30 p.m. today, biology students, WISHTV and BDTV videographers, photographers and administration gathered in the principal’s conference room for a special moment between two caring individuals.
Minutes later, a donor would walk through the door to meet the patient he saved in 2002.
Twelve years ago, science department chair Grace Schmitt was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). There was a 10 percent chance of getting a perfect donor match for bone marrow.
Donor Dave Meuse originally got involved in blood donating by chance. He continued to donate years later, after receiving a call he was a match for someone.
“They told me I was as well as a sibling match to the recipient,” Meuse said.
As Meuse was getting blood and bone marrow drawn, Schmitt was receiving her treatment 951 miles away.
“I asked to be knocked out. Take the corkscrews, put them in my hip bones, and take it out all at once,” Meuse said. “I don’t like needles much anymore.”
Meuse travelled by plane from Boston to meet Schmitt in person for the first time. Schmitt was the one to initiate first contact and the meeting between the two.
Over the past few days, Schmitt has been teaching her biology students about the disease.
“It’s neat our story was able to be shared in my curriculum,” Schmitt said. “That’s especially why we wanted to bring this here to the high school.”
Since Schmitt is a long-time educator, her husband shared his thoughts on the indirect effects of Meuse’s donation.
“You’ve effected thousands of student’s lives because of the connections Grace has,” he said. “You’ve gone beyond our family […] just because of your generousity and what you did.”
Schmitt’s daughters, Caroline and Carolyn, and her husband were there to share the event with her.
“Because of what you did, I am able to raise my girls,” Schmitt said. “Thank you.”
Schmitt will also be honored this weekend as part of the annual Light the Night event hosted by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS). Light the Night Walk focuses on raising funds for treatment and research to save patients and families affected by the disease.
“Ninety-nine point nine percent of the time, if you reject the donor and come back as self, you come back with cancer. I did not. I came back as self and have remained cancer free. It is a very unique and incredible ending,” Schmitt said.
Consequentially, LLS is honoring Schmitt for her amazing battle against leukemia. Schmitt hopes that patients and families who are facing cancer can gain hope and encouragement from hearing her story. LLS have continuously promoted the event through social media and the walk to recount Schmitt’s personal journey against leukemia.
“I have been very honored to have this opportunity to share with others,” Schmitt said.
Although leukemia significantly impacted Schmitt’s life, it has also brought her closer to faith, family and the desire to enjoy every day that she is blessed with. For many patients Schmitt is a symbol of hope and perseverance.
“I am sort of the “poster child” for the event. My face represents a patient who survived leukemia,” Schmitt said.
Light the Night is scheduled to commence at 5 p.m. Saturday where Schmitt will be recognized as the Honored Hero and along with other contributors of the event will be featured in a video, produced by BDTV students and performing arts instructor Dennis Goins, on the jumbotron TV at Victory Field. The event also consists of a celebration walk for cancer survivors and supporters downtown outside of Victory Field.
Ultimately, many are looking forward to Light the Night as it will celebrate cancer survivors and help continue to fund research for disease. Schmitt is a motivation for many to stay positive despite the struggles that many cancer victims encounter.