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Published Tue, Jan 22, 2013 08:00 PM
Modified Mon, Jan 21, 2013 03:04 PM

Family travels to Clayton to meet bone marrow donor

- ajames@newsobserver.com
Isaiah Mulder, 9, of South Dakota, was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder in 2008 and received a bone marrow transplant from Doug McClentic, of Clayton, who signed up to be a donor when his stepson needed a donor.
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- ajames@newsobserver.com

CLAYTON -- A family from Sioux Falls, South Dakota traveled to Clayton this week, but they weren’t here on vacation or to visit family.

They came to meet the man who was the donor in a bone marrow transplant.

Doug McClentic, who now lives in Clayton, called Boston his home at the time. He had recently signed up to be a donor when his stepson was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder and also needed a bone marrow transplant. He was hoping to be a match for his stepson.

“I wasn’t, but I was for him,” McClentic said as he pointed at Isaiah, who sat next to him in Clayton last week. “I wouldn’t say I’m a great person, I just did something great,” McClentic said humbly. He moved to Clayton two and a half years ago and works as an architect.

The Mulder family originally expected to have the transplant from a woman who matched Isaiah’s blood type. Five days before the procedure, the hospital found a donor who was a better match.

“I knew his name was Doug and that he was pretty tall,” said Isaiah Mulder, 9. His parents had told him some about the donor who saved his life, but he had never met the man in person.

In 2008, at the age of four and a half, Mulder was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a rare blood disorder. Doctors estimate that there are about 900 new cases of Aplastic Anemia diagnosed in the United States each year, according to the Aplastic Anemia and MDS International Foundation.

Mulder’s marrow should have been about 90 percent full of cells and his was about 10 percent. To keep him from being exposed to germs, Mulder had to stay out of school, and any activities outside of his home. The only long-term solution was to get a bone marrow transplant, according to his mother Kristin Mulder.

McClentic said the procedure was not painful, and definitely worth the huge reward. He had two needles inserted into his hips and had a Coke bottle size container of bone marrow removed. “If you’ve ever stubbed your toe, and felt how that hurts, it didn’t hurt that much,” McClentic said.

It wasn’t all downhill from there for Mulder. He was in the hospital for 21 days after the transplant. And after that, his family spent almost four months living next to the hospital at the Ronald McDonald house, in case he experienced any complications. At one point, he got sick enough that he needed to go to the emergency room. The procedure wipes out the entire immune system of the recipient, and Isaiah had to get a whole new set of immunizations like the ones he received as a baby, as if he had a new body.

“It was a very stressful time,” said his mother.

Now, Mulder is in the third grade, and has fully recovered.

“Like every other normal kid, I like to stay up late and plan games on my iPod,” said Mulder.

The two families could not contact each other for a year after the operation. When that year ended, the Mulder family reached out to McClentic and began a correspondence. Each year, they would send Doug photos of Isaiah on his birthday.

This was the first time they met in person. Last week, Doug showed Isaiah off at his Rotary meeting. And Mulder and his two brothers went bowling, then traveled to a Duke game, and a Carolina game. Isaiah had a Skype session with his classmates in South Dakota from his hotel room on Thursday morning.

“Now I got to see first hand how great he is,” said McClentic.

James: 919-553-7234

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