Leukemia Patient Meets His Bone Marrow Donor | Loyola Medicine
Monday, September 12, 2016

Leukemia Patient Meets Bone Marrow Donor Who Saved His Life

Bone marrow donor David Kennedy, foreground, and cancer survivor Michael Beltrame met for the first time September 11 during Loyola Medicine’s annual Bone Marrow Transplant Celebration of Survivorship. With them is Mr. Beltrame's wife, Michelle.

MAYWOOD, IL –  Leukemia survivor Michael Beltrame, a 42-year-old father of three, owes his life to a complete stranger who altruistically donated bone marrow cells for Mr. Beltrame’s successful bone marrow transplant.

“Thank God I have a donor who thought of other people,” Mr. Beltrame told about 400 patients, family members, caregivers, donors and cancer center staff members who attended the annual celebration at Loyola’s Cardinal Bernardin cancer center.

Mr. Kennedy, 23, of Lancaster, Pa., registered to become a bone marrow donor at the urging of his college football coach, who signed the entire team up for the Be the Match® National Marrow Donor Program®.

After graduating, Mr. Kennedy was informed he was a perfect match for Mr. Beltrame, and immediately agreed to donate. A large needle was used to withdraw marrow cells from Mr. Kennedy’s pelvis. He spent the night at a local hospital and was sore for a few days.

“But it wasn’t that bad,” Mr. Kennedy said. “It felt like I had been in a rough football game. I would definitely do it again.”

Mr. Beltrame, of Channahon, Illinois, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a fast-growing cancer of white blood cells. He underwent high-dose chemotherapy and whole-body radiation to kill the cancer cells. While wiping out the cancer, the treatments also killed Mr. Beltrame’s immune system cells. He received an infusion of Mr. Kennedy’s bone marrow cells, which developed into healthy new immune system cells.

“Despite all the technology we deploy, we still rely on the good intentions of donors,” said Patrick Stiff, MD, who performed Mr. Beltrame’s bone marrow transplant and is director of the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center.

Dr. Stiff said he continually is amazed that donors such as Mr. Kennedy “are willing to go through a potentially painful procedure to save the life of someone they have never even met.”

Mr. Kennedy said he was especially motivated to donate because Mr. Beltrame has three children (two boys and a girl, ages 12, 13 and 15). “I would like them to grow up with their father,” he said. Mr. Kennedy met Mr. Beltrame’s children, along with his wife, Michelle, and other family members.

Dr. Stiff said Mr. Beltrame is in remission and likely cured.

“I’ve learned to enjoy life every day,” Mr. Beltrame said. “There’s never a bad day.”

To learn more about Loyola Medicine or find a physician, visit loyolamedicine.org.

About Loyola Medicine and Trinity Health

Loyola Medicine, a member of Trinity Health, is a quaternary care system based in the western suburbs of Chicago that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, MacNeal Hospital and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services from 1,877 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital in Maywood that includes the William G. and Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, Illinois's largest burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center and a children’s hospital. Having delivered compassionate care for over 50 years, Loyola also trains the next generation of caregivers through its teaching affiliation with Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine and Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Gottlieb is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital in Melrose Park with 150 physician offices, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park. MacNeal Hospital is a 374-bed teaching hospital in Berwyn with advanced inpatient and outpatient medical, surgical and psychiatric services, advanced diagnostics and treatments. MacNeal has a 12-bed acute rehabilitation unit, a 25-bed inpatient skilled nursing facility, and a 68-bed behavioral health program and community clinics. MacNeal has provided quality, patient-centered care to the near west suburbs since 1919.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic healthcare systems in the nation, serving diverse communities that include more than 30 million people across 22 states. Trinity Health includes 94 hospitals, as well as 109 continuing care locations that include PACE programs, senior living facilities and home care and hospice services. Its continuing care programs provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually. Based in Livonia, Mich., and with annual operating revenues of $18.3 billion and assets of $26.2 billion, the organization returns $1.1 billion to its communities annually in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs. Trinity employs about 133,000 colleagues, including 7,800 employed physicians and clinicians. Committed to those who are poor and underserved in its communities, Trinity is known for its focus on the country's aging population. As a single, unified ministry, the organization is the innovator of Senior Emergency Departments, the largest not-for-profit provider of home health care services—ranked by number of visits—in the nation, as well as the nation’s leading provider of PACE (Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly) based on the number of available programs.