Pam Whitmore's story of survival and meeting her donor - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Pam Whitmore's story of survival and meeting her donor

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BUCKINGHAM (KWWL) -

Pam Whitmore of Buckingham owes her life to a man who, up until recently, was a complete stranger.

"I think that's what kept me going for a year. I just kept wanting to know who this person was and why he donated," said Pam Whitmore.

In June 2011, Pam was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Chemotherapy didn't work so doctors searched for a bone marrow stem cells donor. Pam was told there was only a 13 percent chance of finding a donor and then only a 30 percent chance of surviving the transplant. Against the odds, a match was found.

"All ten of the antigens they test matched mine and his blood type matched mine," said Whitmore.

September 15, 2011 was Pam Whitmore's transplant or "T-Day" in Iowa City.

"I now have 100 percent of donor blood in me," she said.

That donor blood is from Craig Foerster of Michigan. Recipients have to wait one year after the transplant before contacting their donor. Pam always knew she wanted to meet Craig.

"Everyday I think about Craig and the fact he did donate. He's the reason I see the sun in the morning. He's my sunshine. He's my hero," said Pam Whitmore.

In October, Pam and her husband Fred Koch traveled to Michigan to meet Craig.

"You know I don't think I said anything. I think I just grabbed him and hugged him," said Whitmore.

In honor of that first hug, Pam got an ornament that says "hugs" for her Christmas tree and sent a matching one to Craig.

During their trip to Michigan, Pam learned Craig signed up to be a donor after he saw an article in a newsletter about a man who donated twice. It inspired him to sign up, which ultimately saved Pam's life.

"To tell you the truth, I never thought about it that way, saving somebody's life. It was the next step. I've always donated blood with the Red Cross, and it was something I could do and I wish more people would," said Craig Foerster.

Foerster hopes this story inspires others to sign up to be donors. He said it didn't hurt and only took about four hours of his time.

"A little uncomfortable, but there was no pain and after the process I got back in the car and drove myself home," he said.

Previously, Craig was contacted twice to donate but it never panned out.

So far, Pam is doing well a year after the transplant. She no longer takes anti-rejection drugs.

Something else interesting about Pam's story, she was very close at not even qualifying for a transplant. The cut off is age 70 and Pam was 68 at the time of her's.

For more information on how you can become a bone marrow donor click here.

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