Wife of Transplant Patient to Meet Husband’s Donor

 Philippi Woman to Make Bittersweet Trip

MORGANTOWN, WV— April Fridley of Philippi is making plans to meet and thank the donor who made her late husband Toby’s transplant possible. Twenty-six year old Toby Fridley underwent a successful transplant at Ruby Memorial Hospital at West Virginia University in September, 2005, after he was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. 

“Toby relapsed on the one-year anniversary of his transplant and died the morning of September 25 at Ruby Memorial Hospital,” said Londia Goff, R.N., Blood and Marrow Transplant Nurse Coordinator at the Cancer Center. “It was devastating to all of us here because we’ve grown so close to the family and we were excited about their upcoming trip.”

Toby, his wife and the couple’s seven-year old daughter, Erin and one-year old son, Little Toby had been chosen for an all-expense paid trip October 4 to the donor center in San Antonio, Texas, which supplied the stem cells needed for the procedure. In addition to meeting Toby’s donor, the center planned special activities for the Fridley’s.

“It will be a bittersweet trip, but April wants to personally thank the donor for giving Toby one more year with his family,” said Goff.  “She also promised Toby that she would meet the donor if he was unable to make the trip.”

Nurses and other staff at WVU Hospitals and the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center were also planning a send-off party for the family, complete with cake, luggage and a gift for the donor. However, Toby relapsed unexpectedly the weekend of September 22 and died the morning of September 25 at Ruby Memorial Hospital.

The National Marrow Donor Program, which helped facilitate an unrelated donor match for Toby, requires a one-year waiting period from the date of transplant before the donor and recipient can meet. They can however, correspond through the mail without revealing their identities. April kept the thank-you cards flowing during that time. After the birth of the couple’s son just a few days before Toby’s transplant, she sent the donor a card with the outline of Little Toby’s foot and the hand print of their daughter Erin. Another thank-you from the children read ‘thank-you for allowing us more time with our dad.’

The staff at the donor center was so moved by the greetings that it chose Toby as the recipient of a free trip to Texas to meet his donor on October 5. Since Toby’s passing the center has offered to fly April, her children and her mother to the facility.

“April is a real trooper. Her dedication to Toby and deep faith in God gave strength to the staff and has been amazing to witness,” said Goff. “Even in her loss, she was concerned about the effect of Toby’s death on the donor, and wanted to make sure the donor knew she was grateful for the extended time she had with her husband.”

“She’s an amazing woman and has strong faith,” said Kelli Waycoff, RN. “If we could give an award for exemplary caregivers, April would get it hands down.”

The nurses decided to give April all of the gifts they collected for the Fridley’s, including a special card for the donor that Goff created. It features gold-embossed drawings of Texas and West Virginia linked together by two hearts, with the inscription: ‘Hearts forever tied.’

The meeting of the donor and the Fridley family will coincide with the Lone Star Circle of Life Bike Tour, a cooperative effort of Texas' donor centers to raise the awareness of the need for life-saving donations of blood, marrow, organs and tissues.

Non-professional riders are chosen for the tour. Each has a personal reason for wanting to participate in this unique event. Most have had their lives touched by blood, marrow, organ or tissue transplantation either as a donor, a recipient or a family member of a donor, or patient in need. Each biker rides for one of the honorees. Toby and his donor are among the honorees for the San Antonio loop of the bike tour.

Twenty-five thousand transplants have been performed since the NMD program began. “While it is wonderful to know that that many people have had this life-saving procedure, the demand for more donors remains extremely great,” said Solveig Ericson, M.D., director of the BMT/HM program at WVU.  “Only 30 percent of patients in need of a transplant have matching donors in their families. Yet just one to two percent of the population in the United States is registered as a potential donor. I would encourage everyone who can to consider becoming a volunteer donor.”

According to the NMD program—

  • One out of every 20 Americans will need blood at some point of their lives.
  • Each year, over 30,000 new patients are diagnosed with a life-threatening disease that may be cured with a marrow transplant.
  • It takes eight whole blood donations to provide the effective dose of one apheresis blood donation.
  • Each day, an average of 17 people die while waiting for an organ.
  • There are over 77 organs and tissues that can be transplanted.
  • Each year 20 million blood components are transfused.
  • There are currently 87,000 people awaiting a life-saving organ transplant

There are between three to six million registered donors in America out of a population that will reach 300 million this year. Only one to two percent of the population of our country is registered as a potential donor. A great many people in need of a BMT are unnecessarily dying simply because there are not enough people in the registry; and if a donor does have a life-saving match, saving that person's life is nearly as simple as donating a unit of blood.

Please register as a donor.  Give hope. Save a life.

For more information about joining the registry as a stem cell donor, go to the National Marrow Donor Program web site, www.marrow.org . Another way to join is during a donor drive at a donor center where sponsors decrease the cost of joining the registry.

- WVU -

For more information:
Sherry Stoneking, Cancer Center, (304) 293-4599

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