Today is all about bone marrow transplant.

First of all, right now, I’m sitting in the bone marrow transplant fellow’s on-call room; it’s my initial foray into a new call system wherein the transplant fellow stays in the hospital all night, taking care of the patients on the transplant unit (instead of the prior resident-level coverage) and handling any hematology- or oncology-related emergencies that might pop up. Looking at the eighteen total calls I have this year, I can see how spending the night in this tiny, overheated call room might become a bit tiresome — but the service is behaving itself, so that means that tonight is also about finishing off Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Price and catching up on some long-overdue email replies. No complaints there, really.

Second, I saw one of my bone marrow transplant patients in clinic today, and his family had a surprise for me: they brought the bone marrow donor along for the visit, with whom they had spent the weekend. When you’re a marrow donor, the whole thing is pretty much anonymous — if recipients wants to write letters to their donors, they have to do so via the National Marrow Donor Program, which redacts any identifying information before sending it along, and the same process holds true for any communication in the opposite direction. This is done to prevent ethical tragedies (like donors having to pull out of a commitment to donate and being harassed by their potential recipients), and is one of the few inviolable rules that both parties have to agree to up front. After a year, though, if both the donor and recipient agree to it, in some cases the NMDP helps both parties break the anonymity, and my patient and his donor agreed to that this past weekend. So while it was awesome to see my patient doing well (he’s a little over a year out from his transplant and is already back to playing hockey and baseball at the level he played pre-transplant), it was equally awesome to see the starstruck look in his (normally completely irreverent) eyes when he was in the presence of the person who donated his bone marrow to save a life. The donor had his two daughters with him, and the entire group was about as life-affirming as I’d imagine is possible. All in all, the visit was a fabulous reminder that as screwed up as the world seems sometimes, there are fundamentally good people out there who do the right thing and don’t think twice about it.