Duluth Woman Meets, Finds Similarities with Stem Cell Donor – WDIO-TV

So how did they come together? It was less than 3 years ago that Edwards received the toughest news anyone can receive from a doctor.

"I was then diagnosed with leukemia, a rare form of leukemia," said Edwards.

The treatment for this rare form of blood cancer included multiple rounds of chemotherapy and radiation.

"All in all, it was enough toxins to kill a person if you ask me," said Edwards.

Edwards was also hoping to find help from someone else's blood.

"We started the search through Delete Blood Cancer and found a match," said Edwards.

The goal was to find a donor with a similar genetic makeup who could give Edwards their stem cells.

"We tried to match my brother and sister, but unfortunately there were not. So, we kept the search until we could find a match. It was a little nerve-racking, said Edwards.

That's where Halfkann comes in.

"I got a letter that I can be a stem cell donor, and I must go to the clinic in Cologne," said Halfkann.

Halfkann was already previously registered having signed up after one of her coworkers became ill. Although no successful matches were found back in Germany, in Minnesota, Halfkann was exactly who Merissa was looking for.

"Daniela is the only match in the world," said Edwards.

The news that Halfkann could save a stranger's life in the United States delighted the soft-spoken German.

"I'm so happy. I'm grateful," said Halfkann.

The stem cell procedure was pretty simple. Daniela donated blood. The stem cells were filtered out, then sent to Merissa in Minnesota where they were injected.

"There's a lot of complications after the stem cell transplant that could've gone wrong. Fortunately it didn't, which made Daniela an even more perfect match than she already is," said Edwards.

When Edwards heard about the woman who extended her life, she connected with Halfkann online.

"At first we wrote email, and then we connected on Facebook," said Halfkann.

After just a few notes, it was quickly discovered that the two have more in common than the blood running through their veins.

"We like a lot of the same things. Both have 2 children. Both of our husbands are firefighters," said Edwards.

And Edwards continues to successfully battle cancer.

"Right now I am in remission. That doesn't mean that I'll necessarily be cancer-free, but knock on wood...that's the goal...that the cancer will never come back," said Edwards.

There was only one thing left for Edwards to do; meet the woman and family that saved her life. So just a few weeks ago, the pair met for the very first time at Duluth International Airport.

"She is so nice. She is so lovely. I'm so happy we can be here," said Halfkann.

In the ten days together, they and their families created many memories. Halfkann got a glimpse of the life Edwards is now able to hold on to, and it wasn't long before the pair found more in common.

"We seem to like the same things...fruity tea, crafting, sewing, just similar interests in hobbies. Another common interest, shoes," said Edwards.

Both husbands also enjoyed their time together. At the firehouse, Merissa's husband, Dennis, giving Daniela's husband, Stefan, a tour of some of the American rigs and a ride along during an emergency call.

Back at headquarters, the crew made a home-cooked dinner for Halfkann's family and someone else who helped make all of this happen: Amanda Schamper, a representative of DKMS, the registry that matched Edwards and Halfkann.

"What we try to do is to raise awareness in all communities that this is a problem out there. People are searching for their donor match and can't find one," Schamper.

Schamper also showed everyone just how easy it is to sign up to be a bone marrow and stem cell donor.

"We do have a statistic that nearly 14,000 patients are told that they needed a transplant each year, and less than half can't get one because they can't find a donor match on the registry, said Schamper.

During the visit, Edward's extended family threw a get-together in honor of Halfkann. Edward's sister-in-law Kris Hansen is just as grateful.

"Just to know that she's here and they've met each other, and that she can save a life...it's incredible. It's nice to be able to see her and her family and her two adorable daughters," said Hansen.

Through the countless hugs at the party, family members repeated one phrase that transcends all languages.

"I guess the biggest thing we have to say is Danka Daniella!" said Hansen.

"Thank you for saving my life. Thank you for letting me be a Mom. Thank you for coming here so I can meet you and meet your beautiful children and your husband," Edwards said to Halfkann.

And with thanks, comes gratitude.

"I'll forever be grateful to you. You will always be a part of my family." said Edwards.

And this bond that will last a lifetime.

"We're forever connected," said Edwards.

"Yes. Forever," said Halfkann.

Edwards says she and her family are making plans to visit the Halfkann's in Germany.

If you're interested in signing up to become a bone marrow or stem cell donor, it's free and only takes a few moments. A link to that website can be found here.

Read the original:
Duluth Woman Meets, Finds Similarities with Stem Cell Donor - WDIO-TV

Related Post