CHICKASHA, Okla. – For people with life-threatening blood cancers like Leukemia and Lymphoma, a cure is possible through a bone marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant.
That’s what happened to a Chickasha man who, 12 years ago, thought he only had a fever.
At the age of 27, Howie Jackson was told he had acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
He needed a stem cell transplant, formerly known as a bone marrow transplant.
Having siblings would have helped except there was an issue.
“I told them it’s going to be hard to test brothers and sisters because I’m adopted,” he said. “I’m native to the Azors Islands, off the coast of Portugal.”
Dr. George Selby, director of the OU Blood and Marrow Transplant Program, said, “These individuals either die of complications of bleeding or infections.”
Dr. Shelby said, “He’d undergone standard chemotherapy but the odds were he was not going to be cured, even going through that, so we needed to replace his bone marrow with somebody else’s.”
Howie was placed in a national bone marrow donor program and a match was eventually found in the blood of an umbilical cord.
“Somebody I’ve never met donated an umbilical cord and saved my life,” he said.
Howie became the first adult in Oklahoma to get this kind of transplant and received another in 2003.
“It has baby stem cells in it, not embryonic stem cells, which are the controversial ones, but stem cells and they go into the bone marrow.”
It worked so well, he’s going to Washington D.C. to talk with lawmakers about funding the national marrow donor program and a program called “Be the match.”
“Without, number one, God, and without the match, I wouldn’t be here,” he said.
Jackson is leaving for our nation’s Capitol Wednesday.
He said he would like to see funding for a cord bank here in Oklahoma.