Rex Anders, 46, celebrated Father’s Day this year by welcoming a new daughter into his life: a young lady from Alabama who saved his life by donating her bone marrow. Anders, from Thorndale, Texas, could not have lived without the transplant and today he, his wife Jeni, and their three daughters consider donor Stefanie Carter Hightower, 27, a new and very important member of their family.
They all met in person for the first time on Friday, June 17, at the Methodist Hospital Adult Blood and Marrow Stem Cell Transplant Clinic in San Antonio, just two days before Father’s Day. Anders wanted her to meet the transplant team at Methodist Hospital and at the hospital’s Blood Cancer and Stem Cell Transplant Adult Clinic that used her bone marrow to save him.
In 2006 Anders was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). He had been in remission several times, and each time the cancer came back. In January 2014, Paul Shaughnessy, M.D., medical director of the Adult and Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant Program at the Texas Transplant Institute, a department of Methodist Hospital, told Anders that a bone marrow donor would be needed. Transplant is the only curative option for CLL.
Four potential donors were identified and tested, but each was unable to donate. In October 2014, Hightower, living in Anniston, Alabama, was identified as a 9 out of 10 match. She traveled to Memphis to have her marrow harvested. On November 5, 2014, Anders had his transplant. One hundred days later, tests showed he was 100 percent cancer free and remains so today.
Anders reached out to Hightower in January 2016 offering to pay for her to come to San Antonio to meet his family and transplant team. Hightower was married in October 2015, and her new husband has never been to San Antonio. “I decided to make this very special occasion a honeymoon as well,” she said. She had been on the National Marrow Donor Program Registry for two years and also is a registered organ donor.
Learn more about our world-class BMT program at www.MethodistBMT.com.