Dubuque man saves girl's life in 1998, they reunite in 2013 - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Dubuque man's bone marrow donation saves girl's life in 1998, they reunite in 2013

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

One Dubuque man, carrying out his friend's dying wish, gave a little girl a second chance at life.

Just before Carli Domler's second birthday, doctors diagnosed the California toddler with the childhood blood cancer acute myeloid leukemia (AML). That was in 1997.

Of course, Pat Tobin didn't know this when he helped organize a bone marrow drive in 1998, carrying out a final wish of his friend Bill Schrupp, who died of leukemia.

"His one request to his wife was that they do a bone marrow drive, because if there's more bone marrow drives, there's going to be more matches, and he felt if he would've had a chance to have a few more matches, that he could've maybe kicked the cancer," Tobin said Tuesday, standing in his kitchen.

Tobin's donation was a close match for Domler. The 1998 transplant was a success.

15 years later, Domler is now alive and well, a 17-year-old recent high school graduate.

After regulations allowed the two parties to exchange contact information, Domler and Tobin kept in consistent touch over the years. They met for the first time in person in April, when Tobin's family took a trip to California.

Now, Domler is spending her July in Dubuque, far from her California family but basking in the warmth of her Iowa family.

"I called him Uncle Pat growing up, but I think he's closer than that to me," Domler said, standing in the Tobins' kitchen with Pat and his wife Liz. "I have him to thank. I mean, I wouldn't be here without him."

"I had cancer in my family, and anything we can do to fight it, I'd like to do," Tobin said. "I know there's a lot of people out there with the same problems that Carli had."

Domler's post-transplant childhood wasn't without health complications, however. Just this year, in fact, Domler hit a major problem.

"In January, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer," she said. "Then I got my thyroids removed in March."

Domler is now in remission and focusing on her future, going to a California community college in the fall.

Tobin urges people to consider the life-giving gift of a bone marrow donation.

The American Red Cross suggests some people who have never donated before may consider starting by giving blood or platelets and then moving up to bone marrow.

Scott Ellerbach is a donor recruitment representative with the American Red Cross. He said the organization has a critical need right now for blood supplies, as June and July are the lowest months for donations.

"If you think about it, you probably have someone that you know of, whether it's a friend or family, that has been in the need for a blood product," he said. "Maybe they were struggling with a disease or they were in a vehicle accident or maybe they were a burn victim."

Any life-saving donation, whether blood or platelets through the Red Cross or bone marrow through an organization such as the National Marrow Donor Program can lead to life.

If all things going well, a donation can even lead to a friendship like that between Tobin and Domler: one that runs thicker than blood.

For information on bone marrow donation, including exactly what it involves, visit the National Marrow Donor Program's Website at http://bethematch.org/Home.aspx.

To donate blood or platelets through the American Red Cross, visit its Website HERE.

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